Ralph C. Ellis, father of Stephen, was born July 11, 1924, in Milton, Nova Scotia. After serving in the Royal Canadian Air Force during the Second World War, he began his career at the National Film Board as a field representative working out of the Halifax, Ottawa, and New York offices. In 1956, he formed Fremantle of Canada with Paul Talbot and Saul Turell, distributing television programs for Freemantle International. In 1963, in partnership with filmmakers Gerry S. Kedey and Dan Gibson, Ellis established KEG Productions, a production company specializing in wildlife and environmental documentaries (including the series Audubon Wildlife Theatre, 1968-1974, for the CBC). The company became the largest producer of wildlife programming in Canada. In 1964, he founded Ellis Enterprises, which went on to become the most prominent distributor of British programs in Canada (including the series Coronation Street, Upstairs Downstairs, The Two Ronnies, Doctor in the House, The Jewel in the Crown, and Sherlock Holmes). In 1969, Ellis established Manitou Productions, with William Davidson, to produce dramas, resulting in children’s programs such as the Adventures in Rainbow Country (1970-71) for the CBC and Matt and Jenny (1979-1980) for Global Television. Ellis helped to organize the Canadian Television Program Distributors Association, served on the Children’s Broadcast Institute Board, and was a member of the Broadcast Executives Society. He was appointed to the Order of Canada and the Order of Ontario in 1997 and retired in 2002. Ellis died in 2016.
In 1973, Maclean-Hunter acquired a 50% stake in KEG Productions. By the 1990s, Ellis Entertainment Corporation had re-acquired 100% of the production group, re-branding its productions and distribution arms as Ellis Vision Inc. and Ellis Releasing. Ellis Enterprises had an early deal with Discovery Channel in 1986 and was a co-founder of the Outdoor Life Network in Canada in 1996. In 2009, Ellis Entertainment merged with Knightscove Media Corp., creating the Knightscove-Ellis International television division. In 2015, the 600-title library of material produced by Ralph and Stephen Ellis was acquired by Stellis Media Inc.
Stephen Ellis, Ralph’s son, began working for Ellis Enterprises as a shipping clerk in 1973 while he was in university. In 1983, Stephen became Managing Director of KEG after Ralph bought out the original partners. In 1986, Stephen became president of Ellis Enterprises. Stephen joined the CFTA board in 1980 (serving as president in 1984), was secretary-treasurer for the Canadian Film and Television Production Association, and in 1989 was founding president of the Canadian Retransmission Collective (CRC). In 2002, Stephen took over Ellis Entertainment upon his father’s retirement, and continued producing until 2011. In 2015, Stephen founded Stellis Media, naming his father chairman emeritus. As of 2020, Stephen Ellis is president of RocketFuel Media Inc. (launched in 2012 with Gina Lijoi), a principal with the consultancy Media Cattellist Solutions, chair of the CRC, and chair of ISAN Canada.