Ron Jones founded the Tinopolis Group in 1990 and as its Executive Chairman has led it ever since. Based in Llanelli, Tinopolis is an international media producer and distributor with a significant presence in the global industry, producing programmes for most of the major networks and channels in the UK and the US. These include Hinterland, American Ninja Warrior, Hell’s Kitchen, Robot Wars, Heno, Question Time, as well as sport such as the English Premier League, English Premiership Rugby, the T20 World Cricket Championships and the Commonwealth and Paralympic Games.
Here Ron discusses just how Tinopolis made its mark on the global media scene.
“When I established Tinopolis, the Welsh media scene was nowhere near as successful or outward-looking as it is today. We worked for public service broadcasters, particularly S4C. Our content was largely in the Welsh language, hardly an obvious place to start in building an international business. We went on to prove that starting local is no disadvantage. It’s the obvious place to start. The next steps are not easy but it can be done.
Success in the creative industries needs to be measured by how we can perform outside our cultural comfort zone. We remain fiercely proud of our roots here in Llanelli and our HQ remains here to this day, but we always had wider ambitions. The global stage is where we wanted to play.
So how did we do it? We had a clear strategy to build an international media business with a strong and diversified revenue base. This means producing quality programmes in their home territories for the world-wide market. This is underlined by our acquisition strategy of looking for companies that provide value for our shareholders and extend our reach and presence in global markets.
We went public on the Alternative Investment Market (AIM) in 2005 and this led to a steep growth trajectory, including the takeover of the largest listed production company at the time, The Television Corporation PLC. This acquisition gave us Sunset + Vine and Mentorn. Sunset + Vine is the sports producer behind most of BT Sport’s live coverage including Premier League, English Premiership rugby and European football, as well as Channel 4’s Paralympic Games programming. Mentorn Media makes Robot Wars that you may have seen recently.
We have companies in the group across a wide range of programme types. Video Arts, the training media company founded by John Cleese is one of ours. So is Fiction Factory, which is currently in post-production for the third series of its critically acclaimed and award-winning police drama, Hinterland/Y Gwyll, for S4C and the BBC. Danish network DR (the company behind The Killing) was an early buyer, and the show has also been bought by Netflix North America, a major coup and one which means an original Welsh drama will be available to US audiences for the first time.
In 2008, we went private again in partnership with Vitruvian Partners, and since that time have added numerous leading media brands to our portfolio from across the world, including Pioneer Productions, a factual producer; A Smith & Co Productions, one of the largest production companies in North America, responsible for Hell’s Kitchen and American Ninja Warrior and also the Hollywood based Emmy award winning Magical Elves who work with the likes of NBC, ABC and Bravo, developing shows including Project Runway, as well as top concert documentary films such as Justin Bieber: Never Say Never and Katy Perry: Part of Me. If you are a fan of Big Fat Gypsy Weddings, that’s one of ours as well, produced by our company, Firecracker.
The acquisition of A Smith & Co and Magical Elves, along with sales to the US by our various other companies has made us one of the largest producers in the USA.
Tinopolis has a truly global reach and works across genres that span the media world. We are one of the largest independent TV and new media production companies in the UK and to date group companies can boast 13 Emmy’s, 10 BAFTAs, 14 Royal Television Society awards and four Broadcast awards between them, with an annual turnover of well over £200 million. Not bad for a company that started out life in post-industrial Wales, rather than the well-worn media streets of Soho. But always remember when it comes to business growth, you’ve got to start somewhere.
It’s sad that so few companies have used the legacy of investment from the public sector, in our case public service broadcasters, to grow their businesses outside of Wales. I was determined that Tinopolis should grow to become a ‘real’ business, able to operate independently of public sector support.
By now our outward looking perspective has been matched in scope by the spirit of the Welsh Government who have made the development of our creative industries a priority sector. I chair their advisory panel. Thanks to their investment, intelligent policy making and a flexible approach, the sector has become one of the fastest growing industries in Wales. Wales is now home to many international drama projects and companies building a sustainable industry. This can be done when a government policy is combined with some outstanding civil servants at ease with the private sector and determined to make a difference.”
Tinopolis is taking part in Business Wales Growth Week (February 27th – March 3rd) where they will be hosting an exclusive event on Thursday March 2nd. Guests will hear the Tinopolis story first-hand from executive chairman and founder Ron Jones.
Business Wales, which is funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government, supports the sustainable growth of small and medium size enterprises across the country by offering access to information, guidance and business support. Visit www.businesswales.gov.wales or www.busnescymru.llyw.cymru for further information.