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Copyright does not last forever. Whether the rights have expired and entered the Public Domain, or one company was required to sell its rights to another, chances are your favourite series or creation will undergo a change in legal ownership, if it has not already. Thunderbirds is no exception to this law. For the series (along with many of the other Anderson productions) has undergone several changes of hands over its 50 year history.
In this article, the History Of Thunderbirds Ownership will be thoroughly explored and detailed; from the early years of AP Films, right up to its present day owners, ITV Studios. Ironically, it's a tale not unlike an episode of Thunderbirds, complete with risky business, a daring life-saving mission, the greed to acquire all of International Rescue, and a resolution that almost comes full circle.
Founded in the mid-1950's, AP Films was a result of collaborations between Gerry Anderson and Arthur Provis. While suffering through its early days, the small company shot to fame after Roberta Leigh chose them to create a television series starring puppets based on her character, Twizzle. This became their first 'major' production, and paved the way for great successes in years to come.
The first season of Thunderbirds was to be the final production by AP Films. It was time for a change, and since Provis had left the company back at the turn of the 1960's, a new name had long been in order. A striking title which signified their shows, and lept them ahead into the twenty first century...
Associated Television (ATV)Edit
ATV was forged in mid-1955 out of the merge between ABDC (Associated Broadcasting Development Company) and ITPC (Incorporated Television Programme Company) as a result of both groups running into difficulties securing contracts with the Independent Television Authority. (ABDC was initially successful, but could not deliver enough finances, while ITPC was deemed too powerful). Subsequently they were granted the rights to produce and sell their own productions. In September 1955, ATV opened broadcast as a weekend television station in the London region, with a weekday service for the Midlands region joining in several months later.
In 1963, ITPC co-founder and ultimately owner of ATV, Lew Grade, bought out AP Films (though Gerry and Sylvia retained the majority share of its output). This resulted in Thunderbirds earliest change in ownership, as the series was already beginning to take conceptual form.