Penguin Group launches television division

New York, New York - John Makinson, Chairman and CEO of the Penguin Group, today announced the formation of a new division, which will be called Penguin Television. Created from the Pearson Broadband Television Group, this new entity will be based in Pearson's London headquarters and headed up by John Hollar, who founded Pearson Broadband in 2000 after a distinguished career with PBS in the U.S.

Penguin Television will specialize in two areas: factual, non-fiction documentary programming and children's programming.  The company already has more than 30 hours of television currently in development, and several projects are either finished or will complete production later this year.

"This new venture is a huge opportunity for us," said Mr. Makinson.  "It is already well advanced with several productions that draw on content from Penguin and DK and we expect it to contribute to our bottom line from day one. We're very pleased to have someone with John's extensive experience and background lead this new division."

Mr. Hollar commented, "Penguin Television will add a new dimension to the Penguin brand and help Penguin's best projects make the natural leap to worldwide television. We've had a warm welcome from publishers in the UK and the US and have at least two dozen exciting ideas on the drawing board."
Penguin Television will be expanded from Pearson Broadband's international TV library of 150 titles, which are sold in more than 80 countries and 35 languages around the world. 

Penguin Television programming includes:

  • Backyard Science , a fifty-two part series for ages 9-12, ties in with the DK Backyard Science books and kits.  It will finish production in Australia in December and is pre-sold in several major TV markets worldwide.
  • The Way Things Work , a 26-part animated series based on the well-known DK title, is scheduled to debut on BBC2 in the fall and is pre-sold in more than a dozen countries.
  • 1421, a two-hour historical documentary on China's epic naval exploration of the world, is in production in London and on location in China, and will debut in the United States on PBS in 2004.
  • The Essential Shakespeare is being developed in association with the forthcoming DK handbook on Shakespeare.  It puts Shakespeare's major works in historical perspective with actual dramatic productions from some of the best directors in the world.
  • Destination America is being co-developed with DK in London. It is a major multi-part documentary tracing the history of immigration to the United States in the 19th and 20th Centuries, told through the stories of actual families in both their home countries and in America.  David Grubin, winner of multiple Emmy Awards in documentary television, will be the producer.

Penguin Television will also continue to expand its existing television production in China as part of Pearson's overall strategy for this growing market.  "Beijing to London Taxi", a 13-hour travel documentary on the journey of two Chinese passengers and a London cabbie in a black cab from Tiananmen Square to Trafalgar Square, became a major hit in China and captured landmark sponsorship from Kodak and the mobile communications giant China Unicom. 


John Hollar joined Pearson in 2000 to create Pearson Broadband and led the company from start-up to expansion in television, broadband digital content and international co-productions.  Before joining Pearson he was Executive Vice President of PBS in the United States, where he founded the operating division responsible for PBS's online, video/DVD and education businesses.

Pearson Broadband led the development of the KnowledgeBoxÒ digital curriculum system in the United States, Asia and the United Kingdom.  KnowledgeBox will become a product line of Pearson Education as Mr Hollar's team turns its attention full-time to building Penguin's brand in television worldwide.

Mr. Hollar's senior team will include Eric Jones, Executive Vice President; Simon Jollands, Director of Television; and Anne Magnol, Head of Sales, all based in London; and Carlos Alcazar, Vice President, Strategic Ventures and New Business, based in the United States.

The Penguin Group is part of Pearson plc, the international media company.

Further information

In the US:

Marilyn Ducksworth, Penguin Group (USA), (212) 366-2564 or email

Dave Zimmer, Penguin Group (USA), (212) 366-2687 or email

In the UK:

Joanna Prior, Penguin Group (UK), 44 20 7010 3250 or email

Laura Jones, Penguin Television, 44 20 7010 2916 or email