has produced few media moguls and even fewer who are known outside
the country. The most remarkable has undoubtedly been Rupert Murdoch
but not far behind is the figure of Reg Grundy. And like Murdoch,
Grundy's path has been ever upward.
was born in Sydney, where for ten years he worked in radio as a
sporting commentator and personality. He developed a radio game
show, Wheel of Fortune, which he transferred to television
in 1959. He had earlier realised the importance of having several
programs in production at any one point in order to stay in business.
Appearing as compere as well as producing Wheel, and realising
that U.S. network television was a ready source of program ideas
in the area of game shows, he began to adapt programs such as Concentration
and Say When for Australian television. He suffered two lean
periods over the next decade when all his shows were canceled but
by 1970 his business empire was starting to take shape.
foundation of this enterprise was game shows and by 1970 his company
was starting to turn a handsome profit. For Grundy, the economies
of television game shows were such that it was possible to sell
variants of a game show on a regional or state basis as well as
selling on a national basis. By this stage he was displaying the
two qualities that made him unique among Australian television packagers.
The first was a capacity to spot and hire talented workers who would
serve him well as managers and producers. As his company grew, he
turned much of the running of things to these employees. The second
element of his genius lay in his ability to quickly recognise the
value of particular program formats so far as programming and audience
appeal were concerned. Increasingly Grundy was to concentrate on
searching for new formats, paying particular attention to game shows
on American television. By the late 1970s trade in program formats
was becoming more formalised with the adaptation of licensing arrangements.
By then Grundy had established a firm relationship with the Goodson-Todman
group in the United States and had first call on their many television
game show formats for adaptation in Australia and the Pacific.
In the late 1970s Grundy's company, now known as the Grundy Organisation,
began to purchase game show formats in its own right. Among the
first was Sale of the Century. In the meantime the company
had also become established in the area of drama production, beginning
in 1974 with Class of 74 and continuing into such serials
as The Young Doctors, The Restless Years, Prisoner, Sons and
Daughters and Neighbours. Having a second economic anchor
in drama has made the company enormously secure so far as its finances
elements now combined into a logic of off-shore development. Having
long outgrown its Sydney base and produced game shows for broadcasters
both nationally and in other regions, there seemed to be no reason
why the company should not expand its productions into other territories.
The fact that many of its game shows had come from elsewhere in
the first place meant that the company always had an implicit "internationalism".
The large cash flow from the game shows and the drama meant that
the company had the resources to establish offices elsewhere. In
addition after 1980, the company also benefited from the expanding
overseas market for Australian television drama. To facilitate this
trade, the company appointed an independent agent to handle the
distribution of its programs and later set up its own distribution
arm. Finally, the company was also building up its catalogue of
formats, both through purchase from elsewhere as well as those it
had developed itself.
The 1980s and the 1990s outline the story of the Grundy company
as an increasingly transnational organisation. The company set up
a production office in Los Angeles in 1979 and by 1982 had programs
in production in the United States, Hong Kong, and Brunei. The establishment
of permanent offices in multiple territories, however, is not part
of its long-term goal. After all, in Australia, the company had
opened and closed offices in particular state capitals as the demands
of production had dictated. The same logic has tended to operate
internationally. The key to the transnational operation of Grundy
transnationally has lain in the ownership and control of formats
both in game shows and drama serials. Grundy has typically sought
a local production partner in a particular national territory and
this co-production strategy has had three important consequences
so far as the company is concerned. It allows Grundy to act in a
quality-control role in relation to production; it guarantees that
the local production company will establish and maintain the "indigenisation"
of the program format; and it enables Grundy to retain control of
the format for other territories. Distributing its large packages
of drama serials, especially those produced in Australia, ensures
that the company has a "calling card" when it seeks to enter new
the company has found it important to establish offices in particular
regions. In 1983 the company was re-structured with Grundy World
Wide, headquartered in Bermuda, as the parent company. To serve
its European operation, the most important sector of its activities,
the company has an office in London. It also has permanent offices
in Chile to anchor its Latin American operation and an office in
Singapore that services Asia. Its Los Angeles office has had a major
function in developing new game show formats both for the United
States and also for other territories, most especially those in
is Reg Grundy in all of this? The answer is that until very recently
he was the driving figure behind the very highest executives in
his organisation, always aware that good executives and new, attractive
formats were the lifeline of his organisation. Unlike a Rupert Murdoch,
however, he had no offspring to groom as successors. In 1995 he
sold Grundy World Wide to the Pearson International for $386 million
(U.S.). The sale saw his executives remain in place, continuing
to expand the company. This was likely to accelerate, given that
Pearson Television already held the format catalogue of Thames Television.
Grundy meanwhile, from his home in Bermuda, through his private
investment company, RG Capital, was reported to be seeking shares
in several Australian television and radio stations.
Photo courtesy of Grundy Television
GRUNDY. Born in Sydney, Australia, 1923. Educated at St. Peter's
College. Married Joy Chalmers. Worked as a sports commentator and
a time salesman with Sydney radio station 2CH; host, a radio quiz
show, 1957, which he subsequently took to television TCN 9, 1959;
founder, Reg Grundy Enterprises, 1960; leading producer of game
shows in Australian television; expanded into production of drama
serials, from 1973, including The Young Doctors, The Restless
Years, Prisoner and Neighbours; company reorganized as
Grundy Organisation, 1978; opened its first overseas office in Los
Angeles, 1979; Grundy relocated to Bermuda, 1982; sold the television
company to Pearson Television, United Kingdom, 1995.
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