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Our history

A history of creativity, passion and outstanding success.

FremantleMedia has developed through a number of acquisitions of major companies. Some of these had been operating for many years under Pearson Television, whilst others already had a long and illustrious independent history – including UFA which dates back to 1917. Many of these companies still operate today under their original names, but as part of the FremantleMedia family.
 
This timeline illustrates the key milestones in our history and how FremantleMedia has grown to be a global leader in television production and programming.

 

1917

Founded: Universum-Film AG (UFA)
On 18th December 1917, Universum-Film AG (UFA) was founded in order to compete with foreign films as well as for propaganda purposes. However, after the end of the war, there was a focus on popular genres.

 

1922

UFA production centre
From 1922 onwards, the Neubabelsberg Bioscop studios served alongside the studios in Berlin-Tempelhof as the UFA production centre.

 

1926

Europe’s largest sound stage: Neubabelsberg Bioscop
Under production chief Erich Pommer, this operation expanded with the construction of Europe’s largest sound stage at that time. Directors like Fritz Lang or F. W. Murnau were involved in realising major projects like “Metropolis”, “Dr. Mabuse”, “Die Nibelungen”, “Faust” and “Der letzte Mann” for UFA.

 

1927

Takeover: UFA
After a difficult financial crisis, UFA was taken over by the Scherl Group owned by the major publisher Alfred Hugenberg.

 

1930

Produced: The Blue Angel “Der Blaue Engel”
Josef von Sternberg made the talkie “The Blue Angel” which was a worldwide success.

 

1933

Emigration
After the National Socialists came to power, Billy Wilder, Fritz Lang, Erich Pommer and others emigrated.

 

1942

Merger: UFA-Film GmbH
The so-called “Gleichschaltung” was completed with the merging of UFA, Tobis, Terra, Bavaria and Wien-Film into one single concern, the UFA-Film GmbH (UFA).

 

1945

Occupation: UFA offices
On 24th April 1945, units of the Red Army occupied the UFA grounds.

 

1946

Founded: Deutsche Filmaktiengesellschaft
Deutsche Filmaktiengesellschaft, (DEFA), was founded on 17th May 1946, with the issuing of the first production licence by the Soviet Military Administration.

Produced: “Die Mörder sind unter uns”
DEFA’s first feature film was Wolfgang Staudte’s “Die Mörder sind unter uns” starring Hildegard Knef.

 

1955

Launched: This Is Your Life
Launched on the BBC, moving to ITV and Thames Television in 1969. 

 

1956

Launched: The Price Is Right
The longest-running gameshow in TV history and remains the number one American daytime programme.

Privatised: UFA
The rest of the Third Reich film assets remained in the Western occupation zones under the administration of trustees until Bavaria and UFA were privatised in 1956.

Acquisition: UFA
Universum-Film AG (UFA) and UFA-Theater AG were taken over by a consortium of banks led by Deutsche Bank. UFA boss Arno Hauke fought in vain against the crisis in the film industry.

 

1964

Acquisition: Universum-Film AG
In 1964, Bertelsmann acquired Universum-Film AG, as well as all shares in UFA-Theater AG. In order to prevent the sale of the film rights of the former UFA, the Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau Foundation was set up.

 

1968

Launched: Thames Television
Thames Television launches in the UK.

 

1969

Launched: The Benny Hill Show
An award-winning format which ran for over 30 years, featuring comedy sketches, zany songs and inventive film sequences.

 

1972

Acquisition: UFA-Theater AG
The Riech Group acquired UFA-Theater AG and continued to run it under UFA. The rights to the UFA name remained with Bertelsmann. Under Werner Mietzner there is a renaissance of UFA productions produced by UFA-Fernsehproduktion. 

1973

Launched: Tommy Cooper
One of the best loved British comedians. The show ran from 1969 to 1980.

  

1975

Launched: The Sweeney
A ground-breaking drama about the Flying Squad, an elite investigation unit of the London Police.

 

1976

Launched: George & Mildred
A spin-off from Man About the House, this programme ran for five series between 1976 and 1980.

Launched: Family Feud
One of the world’s most successful game shows, now produced in over 50 countries including the highly successful Family Fortunes in the UK.

Launched: SOKO 5113 
Germany's longest running police drama. Aired on ZDF during prime time.

1978

Launched: Morecambe & Wise
Produced by Thames Television, the classic comedy duo performed sketches, song and dance routines, achieving some of the highest ratings ever on British television.

 

1984

Launched: The Bill
The UK’s longest-running police drama.

Private TV Begins in Germany: Federal Republic
When private television began in the Federal Republic in 1984, the Bertelsmann Group together with Gruner+Jahr expanded its film and television activities through a new company: UFA Film-und Fernseh GmbH. Holdings in radio and television stations as well as new film and sports rights were built up and marketed. From its founding until 1995 this company was managed by Bernd Schiphorst and from then until 2000 by Rolf Schmidt-Holtz and Ewald Walgenbach.

 

1986

Launched: Neighbours
This lond running audience favourite launched on Network Ten in Australia and BBC 1 in the UK. It now aire on the UK's Five and Australia's Eleven.

 

1988

 Launched: Going for Gold
On air since 1988, Going for Gold (Questions Pour un Champion) is the number one gameshow on France 3.

 

1989

Launched: Baywatch
This award-winning show has achieved 1 billion viewers worldwide, bringing the blue skies and beautiful beaches of Southern California to a global audience.

 

1991

Management: Wolf Bauer, Norbert Sauer and Axel Reick
Since autumn 1991, the UFA production companies have been rebranded and managed by Wolf Bauer, Norbert Sauer and Axel Reick. UFA Film & TV Produktion soon became the biggest German production company. Prize-winning TV movies, long-running light entertainment formats, top rated daily soaps, sitcoms and non-fiction programmes have made UFA into the market leader with over 2,000 hours of programmes broadcast each year.

 

1992

Launched: Gute Zeiten, Schlechte Zeiten
Germany’s first daily serial drama and still the highest rated.

 

1993

Acquisition: Pearson Television
Pearson plc buys Thames TV, the leading UK production company behind such long-running series as The Bill, This Is Your Life and Tommy Cooper. This forms the start of Pearson Television.

 

1995

Launched: A Place in the Sun
The number one drama on Rai 3 with a 2010 audience of 2.8 million viewers.

Acquisition: Pearson Television
Pearson Television acquires Grundy, adding daily serial dramas like Neighbours and Sons and Daughters and making the company a worldwide production operation.

 

1996

Acquisition: Pearson Television
Pearson Television acquires SelecTV which includes Alomo productions. Alomo produces Birds of a Feather and Goodnight Sweetheart.

 

1997

Acquisition: Pearson Television
Pearson Television acquires All American Fremantle adding The Price Is Right, Family Feud and Baywatch to their programming strength.

Merger: CLT-UFA
At the beginning of 1997, the UFA Hamburg (now Cologne) holding company merged with CLT in Luxembourg into CLT-UFA.

 

1998

Launched: Between Friends
Hungary’s first ever daily serial drama and still the country’s number one drama.

Acquisition: Pearson Television
Pearson Television acquires EVA Entertainment (UK), game show producer Regent Productions (UK) and drama producer Mastrofilm (Italy).

Established: teamWorx

teamWorx is now among the top five German TV producers, creating high quality TV movies such as Mogadishu Welcome and fact-based dramas.

 

1999

Launched: Grand Designs
Channel 4’s most successful property show peaking with an audience of over 5 million viewers in 2008.

Acquisition: Pearson Television
Cologne-Sitcom (Germany) and Viihde (Finland) added to acquisitions.

 

2000

Merger: RTL Group
Pearson television merges with CLT-UFA forming the RTL Group.

Acquisition: Talkback Productions
Talkback Productions is also acquired.

 

2001

Launched: The Farmer Wants a Wife
The highest-rated entertainment show in the Netherlands since 2003. Nearly one third of the population regularly tune in.

New Name: FremantleMedia
FremantleMedia is adopted as the new company name for the content production division of RTL Group.

Award Winner: Pop Idol
The UK’s Pop Idol wins Europe’s top television award – Rose d’Or (The Golden Rose of Montreux).

2002

Ratings Winner: American Idol
American Idol becomes a smash hit on Fox, with 22.8 million viewers watching the final.

 

2003

Acquisition: FremantleMedia
FremantleMedia acquires Crackerjack Productions - one of Australia’s most creative entertainment production companies.

Merger: Talkback and Thames

The UK production companies merge to create talkbackTHAMES, one of the UK's most creative production companies.

Launched: How Clean is Your House?

Has now aired in more than 12 countries worldwide.

2004

Launched: The X Factor
Launched in the UK on ITV, The X Factor has gone on to become the UK’s highest-rated talent show this decade.

 

2005

Anniversary: Neighbours 
The hugely popular Australia serial drama celebrates its 25th anniversary.

Acquisition: FremantleMedia
FremantleMedia acquires 75% of Danish production company Blu.

 

2006

Launched: Got Talent launches in US.
America's Got Talent  has been the number one entertainment series on NBC's prime time for three consecutive seasons, peaking with an audience of 16.4 million viewers, the series highest audience to date (2010).

Launched: The IT Crowd
The number one sitcom on Channel 4 (UK) with an audience of 3.4 million viewers (2007).

Ratings Winner: American Idol
Season 5 of American Idol  attracts a record braking audience with 36 million viewers watching the finale and over half a billion votes cast during the series. 

Merger: FremantleMedia
FremantleMedia’s licensing and distribution divisions merge to form FremantleMedia Enterprises.

Online launch: The Apprentice and The IT Crowd are made available online.
Downloads of comedy classics are made available.

Launched: FMX
FremantleMedia’s new media division, FMX, joins the global drama and entertainment genre units under the newly formed Creative Networks department.

Merger: FremantleMedia Australia
Grundy and Crackerjack merge to create FremantleMedia Australia.

Established: Fremantle Productions Sverige AB
FremantleMedia moves further into Nordic market by establishing Fremantle Productions Sverige AB.

Record Breaker: FremantleMedia
FremantleMedia breaks through billion Euro revenue barrier.

 

2007

Launched: Hole In The Wall
FremantleMedia acquires the Japanese format which went on to become the world’s most travelled format of 2008.

Launched: Die Flucht Record Breaker
This German TV movie was the number one drama of the year with an audience of 11.2 million viewers.

Record Breaker: American Idol
Breaks new records surpassing 3 billion votes worldwide over the past six seasons.

 

2008

Launched: Die Gustloff
Germany’s most successful TV movie of 2008 with an audience share of 24%.

Ratings Winner: The X Factor
The X Factor is the number one entertainment show in the UK with a 55% audience share and 14.1 million viewers.

Ratings Winner: Grand Designs
Grand Designs is the number one property show in the UK with an audience of 5.5 million.

Ratings Winner: The Apprentice
The Apprentice is the number one entertainment show on BBC1.

Anniversary: The Bill
UK police drama The Bill celebrates its 25th anniversary.

Ratings Winner: American Idol
American Idol is the number one show in the US attracting 33 million viewers.

Ratings Winner: The Farmer Wants a Wife
The Farmer Wants a Wife is the highest rated entertainment show in France and the Netherlands.

2009

Record Breaker: Britain’s Got Talent
The highest-rated talent show this decade in the UK peaking at 19.3 million viewers for the 2009 final.

Launch: Take Him Out Indonesia

Attracting audiences of up to 4.7 million viewers, Take Him Out was extremely successful, ranking number one in its time period across all demongraphics. 

 

2010

Acquisition: @radicalmedia 
FremantleMedia makes its first large scale move into the branded entertainment market, acquiring a 60% stake in the leading global trans-media company @radicalmedia.

Acquisition: Ludia
FremantleMedia acquires a further 51% stake of Canadian company Ludia, a leading developer and publisher of interactive games, taking its total stake to 80%.

Awards: Indian Idol
Indian Idol brought in two grand awards in 2010, the Most Popular Singing Talent Show at The Indian Telly Awards, and the Best Music & Film-Based Show at the Indian Television Academy Awards. 

Launched: Celebrity Take Me Out (Indonesia)
Launched on th 25th of January, 2010 with an audience of 3.5 million viewers, making it the number one show of the day across all channels.

Ratings Winner: American Idol
American Idol  remained the best performing series in the US, averaging an audience of 22.5 million viewers and holding its spot of being the number one series in the US every year for the past 7 years. 

Ratings Winner: America’s Got Talent
America’s Got Talent
earned the honour of being NBC’s most successful series of 2010, drawing in an audience of an astounding 16.4 million to the series final on 15th September 2010. 

Ratings Winner: The X Factor (Denmark)
The X Factor was the number one show in the country for the third year running, watched by 40% of the population.

Ratings Winner: The X Factor (UK)
Series 7 of the UK’s The X Factor was the number one programme in the UK, winning a peak audience of 17.7 million viewers. Academy Awards. 

Record Breaker: Idols
Breaks new records with a remarkable 4.8 billion votes cast worldwide in May 2010. 

Record Breaker: MasterChef
Airing on Network TEN the second series of MasterChef continued to gain loyal viewers, winning an average audience of 1.8 million. FremantleMedia Australia's production of MasterChef peaked with an audience of 4 million viewers for the season finale, breaking the record, becoming the most watched non-sports show ever in Australia!