Colin Williams

Children’s television production company Sixteen South was established in 2008


Colin Williams founded children’s television production company Sixteen South in 2008. He worked in advertising before setting up his first business, post production company Inferno, which produced animation, film and interactive content for museums and television commercials.

He set up Sixteen South as a side project to Inferno after seeing an ad to pitch to Sesame Workshop in New York to produce a local version of its iconic show Sesame Street. After success with what became Sesame Tree, his team developed Big City Park, which was shot on location in Belfast’s Ormeau Park and aired on the BBC children’s channel CBeebies.

Belfast-based Sixteen South has since produced more than 200 episodes of children’s television for broadcasters across the globe, including the BBC, Nickelodeon, US cable giant Sprout and ABC Australia. It was ranked among the UK’s top indie producers by Televisual and also won the Deloitte Fast 50 Rising Star award in both 2011 and 2012. The shows, which include Sesame Tree, Big City Park, Big and Small, Pajanimals and Driftwood Bay, have received an IFTA award, a BAFTA and two Emmy nominations.

How did you secure your first investment?
I asked the bank to remortgage my house to raise some money to buy some equipment and pay the bills.

What vision prompted you to start-up your business?
I had been running a successful commercial production and post production company and while it was doing well, I was unhappy that the work we were producing was all about selling stuff to people who didn’t want to buy it. I wanted to create content that would make a difference and be seen, enjoyed and remembered in years to come. Children’s television was exactly that.

What moment or deal would you identify as the “game changer” or turning point for the company?
I think that the game keeps changing and there are lots of game changing moments, which constantly move us to bigger opportunities and bigger challenges. Pajanimals, our fourth show in partnership with The Jim Henson Company and the broadcaster Sprout, brought us into the global market and our work into over 300 million homes. And Driftwood Bay, our new show, has had an incredible response from the market, gaining us independent credibility.

What were the best and worst pieces of advice you received when starting out?
The best advice was something I scribbled down: “Do some good, make some money, have some fun”.

Three pieces of worst advice: being told by my Biology A-level teacher that I was a waste of space and wouldn’t do anything with my life; being told by a tutor at art college that animated media was too hard and wouldn’t catch on; and being told by a local broadcaster not to think about getting into children’s television because it was impossible.

Do you plan to extend your services to a new customer demographic or penetrate a new sector in the next 12 months?
Yes. We have produced five shows – all of which are created for preschoolers (2-6 year olds). We are currently negotiating a deal for a live action drama for 7-11 year olds with a global broadcaster.

What are the biggest challenges you face now?
Our biggest challenge is to get a large-scale children’s drama off the ground while juggling all the other shows.