‘Sherlock’ & ‘The Devil’s Hour’ Producer Hartswood Films Expected To Sell Stake To ITV Studios

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EXCLUSIVE: ITV Studios is leading the race to invest in Hartswood Films, the storied British scripted producer behind hits including Sherlock and The Devil’s Hour.

Hartswood put itself up for sale last year and industry sources said ITV Studios is the favorite to complete a deal, bolstering a scripted roster that includes World Productions and Big Talk Studios.

Deadline understands that Jonathan Norman, Managing Director of technology at investment bank Houlihan Lokey, has been advising Hartswood. The company explored partial investment and a full sale.

Hartswood was founded in 1979 by Beryl Vertue, the legendary British TV producer who died aged 90 in 2022. The company is now majority-owned by her two daughters: Debbie and Sue.

Hartswood made British television shows including Men Behaving Badly, while more recent success stories include Inside Man for the BBC/Netflix and Amazon Prime Video’s The Devil’s Hour.

Hartswood is perhaps best associated with Sherlock, the iconic BBC series starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman.

Sherlock last aired in 2017, but talk of the show returning in some form has never dimmed. Mark Gatiss, who co-created the series with Hartswood’s Creative Director Steven Moffat, told Deadline this week that he would be interested in making a movie.

“We’d like to make a film but trying to get everyone together is very difficult,” he said at the Olivier Awards. “You’ll have to ask Benedict and Martin.”

ITV Studios has long been acquisitive in the global production space and a source said the company had $1.3B “burning a hole” in its pocket after backing out of acquiring All3Media last year.

Hartswood’s earnings for the year to March 2023 showed a substantial decline in revenue, though the producer’s directors — including the Vertue sisters and Moffat — said they were “very satisfied” with the results.

Sales stood at £29.7M ($37M), down nearly 40% from £49.1M the previous year. Pre-tax profits were up 39% to £7.8M, according to a filing at the UK’s Companies House register.

ITV Studios, owned by UK broadcaster ITV, posted record revenues of £2.2B in 2023. EBITA increased 10% to £286M. The studio has a plan to grow 5% a year by 2026.

Recent hits include Quay Street Productions’ Fool Me Once, which became Netflix’s eighth most-watched original on record earlier this year.

ITV Studios and Hartswood declined to comment.

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