Entertainment & Arts

BBC Studios Natural History Unit Poaches Development Boss From Netflix-Backed Freeborne Media And Promotes Jess Colman

EXCLUSIVE: BBC Studios Natural History Unit has poached Netflix-backed indie Freeborne Media’s Laura Harris to run its development team alongside newly-promoted Jess Colman.

The pair replace Gavin Boyland as dual Heads of Development at the powerhouse BBC Studios division. Deadline revealed in November that Boyland is remaining with the unit to series-produce an unannounced landmark series, which it is understood will be revealed shortly.

Harris returns to BBC Studios following two-and-a-half years away, first with Seadog TV and then with Blue Planet exec James Honeyborne’s Netflix-backed studio Freeborne Media, where she was also Head of Development and worked on the likes of Netflix double Oceans and Great National Parks.

Colman is promoted from Development Executive and has helped shape projects including forthcoming BBC One landmark Asia and Apple TV+’s The Year Earth Changed. She is a former Head of Development at fellow Bristol natural history producer True to Nature.

NHU CEO Jonny Keeling said: “Innovation and creativity are at the heart of the Natural History Unit and to have both Jess and Laura combining their skills and experience to lead the development team will ensure we continue to deliver compelling wildlife content of the highest quality, telling original stories with emotional impact.”

Colman hailed an “exciting time of growth” for the unit and Harris said she “hopes [the pair will] build on its creative success.”

Signing two development chiefs to replaced Boyland is demonstrative of the NHU’s growth ambitions.

The unit recently opened a U.S. hub and has won commissions from a wealth of streamers and U.S. networks in the recent past, along with continuing to pick up BBC landmarks.

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