With the screen entertainment industry moving seamlessly from the “peak TV” to “peak streaming” era, it isn’t a huge plot twist when owners of film and TV studios find their assets are in demand.
Still, the sale of Ardmore and Troy Studios to an American consortium – Hackman Capital Partners, its studio operator affiliate MBS Group and investment house Square Mile Capital Partners – shows how much the drama in this hot market has escalated. As Joe Devine, head of sellers Olcott Entertainment, said, "the industry is transforming before our eyes".
The incoming experienced hands could hardly be placed much better to make sure Troy Studios in Limerick – the biggest film studio in the State – and Ardmore Studios, near Bray in Wicklow, can capture recurring roles in the frenzied content industry as it ratchets up again after a pandemic pause.
The nature of the studio business today is that facilities can swing from empty to booked-up status in just one magic deal. The model is already well-known in Northern Ireland after the multiyear success story that was HBO's tenancy of Titanic Studios for its Game of Thrones production.
Troy is occupied by Foundation, a science fiction series that will soon debut on Apple's streaming service Apple TV Plus, while Netflix teenage series Fate: The Winx Saga is in situ at Ardmore.
Search for space
Netflix and Apple are not the only streamers in search of leased studio space. With Co Wicklow's Ashford Studios home to Netflix's Vikings: Valhalla and other planned Irish studios yet to come on stream, it recently fell to Dublin's RDS conference centre to house Disney's production of fantasy comedy Disenchanted. And Disney's ambitions, as it seeks to populate Disney Plus, are considerable: an eye-catching explosion of its European television production activity was announced earlier this year.
That the sale of Ardmore and Troy has occurred the day after another potential client, Amazon Prime Video, remarkably said it was shifting production of its mega-bucks Lord of the Rings series from New Zealand to the UK – most likely Scotland – from its second season onward only underlines how much potential business is up in the air here, waiting for the right spotlight to shine.