A rash of acquisitions of European and U.S. independent production companies has been steadily spreading over the past year and a bit. One exec says, “We joke that there’s a transaction a day.” Leading the charge is the UK’s ITV, which has been on a shopping spree since it first bought a controlling stake in Duck Dynasty maker Gurney Productions in late 2012. Also acquisitive has been the Pro Sieben-owned Red Arrow, which recently bought Say Yes To The Dress maker Half Yard Prods. But it’s a two-way street: NBCUniversal already owns Downton Abbey producer Carnival Films in the UK as well as Monkey Kingdom and Chocolate Media, among others. Warner Bros last month entered an agreement to take over the global interests, outside the U.S., of Dutch company Eyeworks, and has a majority stake in UK production group Shed Media. Core Media is also known to have its eyes open to UK purchases. What’s more, many of these outfits also own companies in the hot Nordic region. And now there’s word that giant FremantleMedia may be moving in on vast group All3Media. A TV industry exec says, “We had the super-indies and now there’s a new breed of mega-indies.” If FremantleMedia acquires All3Media, it would create what an observer describes as “a very big beast.” Fremantle is a large group with significant turnover and some of their properties are getting older, an exec suggests. “It’s very difficult to replace that scale just through new productions.” However, I’m cautioned that should a deal be done, it won’t be in the imminent future.
So what’s been driving all this consolidation and cross-pollination? For one, with TV channels proliferating in the U.S., whether it be via basic cable or digital platforms, foreign outfits see a prime opportunity to establish a foothold and build scale. In the reverse, U.S. companies moving into the booming UK production sector know that broadcasters are doling out a lot of cash for original content. Read More »
Britain’s ITV has been on a shopping spree in the past 18 months, acquiring controlling interests in production compaines in the U.S., the UK and the Nordics. Today, the UK’s leading private broadcaster announced its full-year results for the year ended December 31, 2013. Pre-tax profits are up 30% to £435M ($725.6M). External revenue was up 9% to £2.39B ($3.8B) and non-advertising revenue, a key indicator, grew to £1.21B, an increase of £175M. The home of Downton Abbey and The X Factor (to which Simon Cowell is returning later this year) had its best year-on-year performance in a decade with viewer share up 4%. Its production arm, ITV Studios, had 20% growth with operating profit up 24% to £133M. The division makes such shows as Mr Selfridge, expected to return for a third season, and last year’s Breathless. The company, which is nearing the home-stretch of a five-year transformation plan, will continue to look at acquisitions. A cost savings of £28M was delivered in 2013 with a target of a further £10M in 2014. The board is proposing an ordinary dividend of 2.4 pence to give a full-year dividend of 3.5 pence, up 35% — and a special dividend of 4 pence in line with last year. Non-advertising revenue is expected to be up 5% to 6% in the four months through April 2014. ITV CEO Adam … Read More »
Proving yet again the affinity global distributors have for Bruce Willis, K5 International has enjoyed a strong sales run at Berlin with Vice. The Willis-starrer has nearly sold out with more than 37 territories biting. The Emmett/Furla/Oasis Films picture, produced by Randall Emmett, George Furla and Adam Goldworm, was picked up across Scandinavia, Russia, Benelux, Japan, China, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Thailand, Israel, Portugal, Russia, Czechoslovakia and France. The film had previously sold to Germany, Poland, ex-Yugoslavia, Latin America, the Middle East, Turkey, Greece, and India. Shooting starts in Alabama next month on the movie that’s set in a resort where the rich live out their most perverse fantasies via synthetic humanoids. When one becomes self-aware and breaks out, she seeks her revenge. Willis plays the resort’s owner and Ambyr Childers is the renegade android. Thomas Jane is also in the cast. Brian A. Miller is directing from a script by Andre Fabrizio and Jeremy Passmore. Read More »
Britain’s ITV is launching its first new channel in eight years. Pay channel ITV Encore will debut later in 2014 on Sky‘s platforms and will be dedicated to the best of the broadcaster’s British drama. ITV’s flagship station, ITV1, is home to Downton Abbey, Broadchurch and Mr Selfridge, among others. I understand the play for Encore is to air series like murder mystery Lucan and Brenda Blethyn detective show Vera, both of which are produced by ITV Studios. From 2015, ITV Encore will act as a further outlet for original British drama with high-end series to be commissioned for the channel with big talent attached, ITV promises. The channel bow is part of a wider four-year partnership with the 21st Century Fox-controlled pay-TV operator, Sky. Under that agreement, ITV content will be made available through Sky’s various range of connected platforms including Sky+HD, Sky Go, NOW TV and Sky Store. ITV CEO Adam Crozier, deep into a five-year transformation plan at the broadcaster which has reduced debt and resulted in several company acquisitions, said today, “A key part of our strategy is to become the most watched, most loved and most talked about family of free and pay channels for every household and every advertiser in the UK.”
UPDATE, TUESDAY AM: ITV has been on a shopping spree this year with its most recent acquisition, Britain’s Big Talk Productions, announced just last Friday. But ITV chief Adam Crozier told reporters on Tuesday morning that, for the moment, the company is “not looking” at further shingles in the Nordic regions where it is also active. That should lay to rest recent speculation that the UK’s leading private broadcaster was mulling a £90M ($134M) takeover of Helsinki-based Nice Entertainment. Crozier’s comments came on an call discussing ITV’s half-year results. The company this morning reported a revenue hike of 11% to £568M ($871M). The increase was primarily driven by in-house producer ITV Studios and the company’s online, pay and interactive divisions. ITV Studios revenues were up 11%, to £395M, with overall EBITDA up 11% to £291M. The company says it is on track for cost savings of £20M as part of Crozier’s five year transformation plan. Net debt was £52M. Net advertising revenue is expected to be broadly flat for the nine months to end September, but the company says it is “confident of delivering double digit revenue growth in Online, Pay & Interactive and ITV Studios over the full year.” Crozier said, “We’re making good progress with our strategy of growing and rebalancing the business as we build new revenue streams and improve margins.” Of the recent acquisitions which also … Read More »
The UK’s leading private broadcaster has been on a production company shopping spree over the last several months in both the U.S. and Europe. In December 2012, it acquired a controlling interest in Gurney Productions (Duck Dynasty) followed by majority shares in Thinkfactory Media (Hatfields & McCoys) and High Noon Entertainment (Cake Boss). ITV also has controlling stakes in The Garden and So Television in the UK, Mediacircus in Norway and Tarinatalo in Finland. In a bid to increase its presence in super-hot Scandinavia, the group is now mulling a £90M ($134M) takeover of Nice Entertainment, according to The Sunday Times. The Helsinki-based Nice also has branches in Norway, Denmark and Sweden. It produces over 100 drama and reality series per annum including Hidden Tracks, The Half Brother, Babes On The Bus and Celebrity Babysitter. The Times says that Finnish investment firm Capman has hired Stella Advisors to auction the business which is on course to increase profits by about 35% to $12.8M this year. Sources indicated that other interested parties could include Fremantle, Sony and Time Warner. ITV had £108M in cash at the end of March, but if boss Adam Crozier were to buy Nice, it would be the most expensive acquisition he’s made so far. Read More »
In yet another U.S. acquisition, Britain’s ITV is taking a controlling stake in reality, entertainment and drama producer Thinkfactory Media. Among the company’s credits are the award-winning miniseries Hatfields & McCoys. ITV will pay $30M for a 65% share of the company with a put and call option to buy the remaining 35%. The option could be exercised from between 3 years after the initial deal and at the end of year 5 with the total amount paid linked to the performance of the company over that period. Late last year, ITV acquired a controlling interest in Duck Dynasty producer Gurney Productions and in May it took a slice of Cake Boss maker High Noon Entertainment. Other recent acquisitions include UK production company The Garden. The takeovers are part of ITV’s five-year Transformation Plan.
LA-based Thinkfactory was founded in 1992 by Leslie Greif. Its portfolio includes R&B Divas, Preachers’ Daughters, Marriage Bootcamp and The Hook-Up as well as new drama series Texas Rangers for the History Channel. Read More »
The makers of hot cable show Duck Dynasty have just cashed out. British television giant ITV announced today that it’s expanding its U.S. production arm ITV Studios America with the acquisition of Gurney Productions. ITV is paying $40 million for a 61.5% controlling stake in Gurney Productions, best known for Duck Dynasty as well as Auction Hunters, American Digger and Haunted Collector. ITV also has a put and call option to buy the remaining 38.5% which can be exercised from 3 to 5 years after the initial deal. “Gurney Productions is a high margin business with three quarters of its revenues coming from returnable series. The company’s EBITA for 2012 is forecast to be at least $10M,” ITV said Saturday. Gurney Productions will report directly to Paul Buccieri, Managing Director of ITV Studios International and President/CEO of ITV Studios America. Further, Gurney Productions’ revenues will be included in ITV Studio’s international revenues starting in 2013. Sources said the maximum total consideration payable by ITV is $111M, depending on the performance of Gurney Productions over the next 3 to 5 years and payable only if Gurney continues to deliver significant growth. ITV Studios America already produces Read More »
Downton Abbey‘s UK broadcaster ITV reported its interim results today with the group’s external revenue up 4% to £1.57B ($2.49B). Non-net advertising revenue was up 15% to £730M ($1.16B), driven by production arm ITV Studios, maker of such programs as Hell’s Kitchen and the upcoming Mr. Selfridge with Jeremy Piven. ITV Studios is expected to turn a profit of over £100M ($158.7M) for the year “and the number of new commissions and recommissions already secured for 2013 gives us confidence that there will continue to be good underlying growth in the Studios business,” boss Adam Crozier noted.
Continuing its five-year transformation plan, the company says total cost savings this year will be about £30M ($47.6M), or £10M ($15.87M) ahead of target. The advertising market has been “broadly flat,” Crozier said. Read More »
Earlier this week, Deadline reported that the four main contenders in the bidding for Dick Clark Productions are CBS, CORE Media Group and private equity firms Guggenheim Partners and Thomas H. Lee Partners. On Tuesday, Sky News reported that UK broadcaster ITV is also kicking the tires of the Golden Globes producer and has hired Barclays to advise on its interest. Such a move would fall in line with comments ITV boss Adam Crozier made in December of 2011 when he hinted that ITV may be in the market to buy an American production company. Crozier is part-way through a five-year transformation plan at ITV which includes wiping down £612M in debt and creating “world class content” to be exploited at home and abroad across multiple platforms.
ITV, which airs, but does not produce, Downton Abbey and Simon Cowell’s Britain’s Got Talent, has been spreading its wings with in-house production including the upcoming Jeremy Piven series Mr. Selfridge via its successful ITV Studios. The group’s recent half-year results boasted growth across all business areas. At the time those results were announced, ITV also said it had acquired Norwegian production company Mediacircus and entered a development and production partnership with Israeli broadcaster Reshet. Still, the chances of a successful bid for DCP have met with some skepticism. According to … Read More »
UPDATE: Just after announcing half-year results this morning, ITV said it has acquired Norwegian production company Mediacircus and has joined forces with Israeli broadcaster Reshet in a strategic development and production partnership. The moves fall in line with the company’s transformation plan as it aims to build a strong international content business. Mediacircus, which will become part of ITV Studios Nordic, produces factual and documentary programming. It currently produces the ITV Studios format Come Date with Me. Reshet develops and produces original drama and entertainment formats including Comedians At Work, Step Family and The Money Pump. Among its original dramas are A Touch Away, which has been licensed by HBO, and Life Is Not Everything, licensed by Sony Studios. Sharon Gelbaum-Shpan will head the venture’s Israeli office.
PREVIOUS: ITV chief exec Adam Crozier’s 5-year transformation plan at ITV is still underway and “gaining momentum.” The broadcaster reported its half-year results on Thursday morning with growth across all business areas. External revenues were up 10% to £1.13B with big increases at ITV Studios, Read More »
ITV boss Adam Crozier is still pushing his way through a 5-year transformation plan at the network home of Downton Abbey. In a first quarter results report this morning, ITV said it had external revenues of £565M for a 13% increase over the same period in 2011. Crozier noted that ITV Studios, the production arm of the network, had done particularly well with revenues up 61% to £212M. The net, which airs Simon Cowell’s Britain’s Got Talent, was down 2% in viewership. That show has been locked in a ratings battle with BBC1′s The Voice, although it’s recently pulled ahead. Crozier said, “We remain confident in our schedule with Euro 2012 in June and a strong Autumn line up.”
The UK’s ITV has announced a new 10-part drama series in a move that looks to build on the mega-success of its Downton Abbey. Mr. Selfridge will trace the life of the flamboyant and visionary American entrepreneur, Harry Gordon Selfridge, who created the famed London department store Selfridge’s. Contrary to Downton, which is made by NBCUniversal’s Carnival Films, Mr. Selfridge will be an in-house ITV Studios production. Created by writer Andrew Davies (Brideshead Revisted, Bridget Jones’ Diary), Mr. Selfridge is set in London in 1909 at a time when wealthy women were enjoying a new sense of freedom. ‘Mile a Minute Harry’ wanted to indulge, empower and celebrate these women; making shopping as thrilling as sex, according to ITV. Based on the book Shopping, Seduction And Mr Selfridge by Lindy Woodhead, the series will shine a light on hidden moments of the history of women through fashion, cosmetics, technology and domestic affairs. Production starts in April in London with the series to air in 2013. Chrissy Skinns is producer with Kate Lewis executive producing. Jon Jones will direct. ITV is currently out to cast an American actor in the lead role. Read More »
Deadline contributor Tim Adler files this international report:
Simon Cowell will return as one of the judges on next year’s Britain’s Got Talent, ITV boss Adam Crozier has confirmed. The X Factor impresario will resume his seat on the talent show following the recent exits of judges David Hasselhof and Michael McIntyre. Speaking to press this afternoon in London, the ITV boss also hinted that ITV Studios may be in the market to buy an American production company, pointing out that the U.S. is the second-liveliest market for independent TV producers apart from the UK. For now though, Crozier is concentrating on wiping out the £612 million worth of debt he inherited by year’s end. “When you inherit something that isn’t working, the worst thing you can do is start bolting things on,” he said. Read More »
Adam Crozier, CEO of UK broadcaster ITV, has suggested making viewers pay for extra content, such as alternative endings. At one point he talked about charging Brit TV viewers to watch hugely popular soap Coronation Street first online, but rowed back from that. Crozier was speaking at the Royal Television Society international conference in London this afternoon. Everything on ITV.com is free at present. Crozier said his top priority is to invest in ITV.com, which he said had been woefully underfunded. The ITV boss reiterated that 50% of revenue must come from pay-TV, online and selling formats overseas, compared with 26% today. He’s not interested in making shows available on content aggregators such as Hulu though. TV commissions will be influenced by how they translate online, he said. “The first thing we need to turn is turn ITV.com into a really robust site,” said Crozier, who joined ITV as CEO in April. Increasing the amount of programming produced in-house by production arm ITV Studios is another priority. In-house only accounts for 47% of programme commissions, he said – and drops to 16% if you strip long-running soaps Coronation Street and Emmerdale out. ITV is looking to acquire independent production companies to beef up ITV Studios. “We need to focus on more long-running renewable series,” he said. “Owning more rights is key to our future.” Crozier said that ITV’s historic problems haven’t stemmed from not knowing what to do but “a … Read More »
The broadcaster has flatly rejected press reports that it’s planning to halve the 1,400 staff at its London South Bank HQ over the next few years. Or that more jobs will go among the 2,600 ITV staff members elsewhere in Britain and Europe. Announcing CEO Adam Crozier’s appointment in January, chairman Archie Norman said ITV’s priority was change “not cost reduction”. “That scale of job losses is certainly not on the agenda,” the broadcaster tells me. Talk that ITV was planning swingeing job losses surprised the City. Paul Richards, media analyst at Numis, tells me he doesn’t think there’s a pressing financial reason for heavy job losses right now. ITV’s debt load has come down as it emerges out of recession and the ad market picks up. “ITV is in a much stronger financial position than it was,” says Richards. “If there is a significant headcount reduction then it would be because Crozier and Norman think they can do the same job with fewer people.”
The broadcaster’s shares have risen for two days in a row following City speculation that the US network wants to buy ITV. Its shares have risen 10% to 55p. Dealers heard through the City grapevine that one UK broker has been buying up chunks of stock on behalf of an American client. There has even been gossip that NBC has agreed to buy BSkyB’s remaining 7.5% share-holding in ITV. And the ubiquitous Simon Cowell has been linked to this mystery US buyer. Cowell said he’s been asked by various people in the States as to whether he would be interested in putting together a joint bid for ITV. Of course it could all be silly season nonsense. But the five-year restructuring plan unveiled by ITV chairman Archie Norman, ex-CEO of Asda/Wal-Mart, and his CEO Adam Crozier has left analysts underwhelmed. The struggling broadcaster still looks cheap and vulnerable to a US bid. “It’s easy to get the spivs to get share prices going with August rumours because trading is so thin,” says this morning’s Times of London. “It would be no surprise if Mr Norman’s plan turns out to be fixing it up and selling it to the Americans – just as he did with Asda and Wal-Mart.”