As expected, BSkyB said this morning that it will create “a world-class multinational pay TV business” with the acquisition of 100% of Sky Italia and 57.4% of Sky Deutschland. The UK’s leading pay-TV player has acquired the stakes from Rupert Murdoch‘s 21st Century Fox in a deal worth about £4.9B ($8.3B) in cash, plus assets. (Fox owns and will retain a 39% stake in BSkyB.) The combined group will have 20M subscribers in Europe across three of the four biggest markets. BSkyB will pay £2.07B for Sky Italia and £2.9B for Deutschland. It will also transfer its 21% ownership of National Geographic Channel to Fox at a value of £382M ($649M). That will raise Fox’s stake in the channel to 73%. BSkyB says it will also launch a voluntary cash offer to the remaining shareholders of Sky Deutschland at 6.75 euros ($9) per share. Subject to the number of shareholders who accept the offer, the overall cash value of the deals announced today could reach £7B ($11.9B). The moves come as BSkyB reported adjusted revenue for the year was up 7% to £7.6B ($2.9B).
The moves to create Sky Europe also come as Fox pursues a mega-acquisition of Time Warner. While speculation has been that the deal to combine the Skys was designed to raise funds for another eventual run at TW, it’s also considered that this deal has a distinct raison d’être and exists on its own … Read More »
When BSkyB reports its full-year results tomorrow, it is expected to announce a deal to acquire 57% of Sky Deutschland and 100% of Sky Italia from 21st Century Fox. Speculation has swirled that this deal is near since it emerged that Rupert Murdoch’s behemoth had bid $80B bid for Time Warner. In May, UK pay-TV giant BSkyB confirmed it had initiated preliminary discussions with Fox to evaluate a potential acquisition of the latter’s pay-TV assets in Germany and Italy. Fox also owns 39.1% of BSkyB. A combination of the businesses would have about 20M subscribers, and could also provide a payday to Fox of an estimated $13B. I’ve been cautioned that these funds are not necessary for Fox to be able to up its bid for TW, but it would put extra money in the coffers while creating a huge pan-European group. “It could just be that 21st Century Fox sees it as a useful way of generating funds and eases management time to concentrate on other things. But the reason for doing it would exist on its own merits,” Enders Analysis’ Toby Syfret tells me. It’s worth remembering that English Premier League soccer rights are coming to auction again in 2015 and extra cash could certainly come in handy. Read More »
Ramping up its strategy to build a broad international content business, Britain’s Sky has acquired a 70% stake in Love Productions. The UK-based maker of Great British Bake Off was founded in 2004 by Richard McKerrow and Anna Beattie. Love has production bases in London, Bristol, NY and LA. Its other credits include Great British Sewing Bee and factual programming Baby Borrowers, Famous Rich And Homeless and the controversial welfare documentary Benefits Street which caused a stir on Channel 4 earlier this year. The indie will continue to operate as a distinct company under its new ownership structure and will produce for all major UK broadcasters. McKerrow and Beattie will continue to run the company with the current senior management team. Sky’s international distribution business, Sky Vision, will become Love’s distribution partner, representing all new finished programs and formats. Sky already has development deals with U.S. and UK production companies including Ugly Brother Studios, back2back productions and Roughcut TV. The acquisition is a further step in the consolidation of the indie TV sector with such companies as ITV, Warner Bros, Red Arrow and Sony acquiring stakes in successful producers on both sides of the Atlantic. The move also highlights Sky’s push to increase its footprint across broadcasting, production and distribution. In May, Sky acknowledged speculation over its potential acquisition of 21st Century Fox’s interests in European pay-TV groups Sky Deutschland and Sky Italia. At the time, it said it had “initiated preliminary discussions with 21st Century … Read More »
John Malone’s Liberty Global has been on an acquisitions spree in Europe over the past year, and while the company says it does not intend to make a takeover bid for the whole, it has purchased a 6.4% stake in the UK’s leading commercial broadcaster ITV. Liberty has acquired 259.8 million shares in ITV from BSkyB for approximately £481M ($824M), the company said in a statement early Thursday morning.
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21st Century Fox Co-COO James Murdoch recently told investors that about half of his studio’s cash flow comes from television series. “There’s maybe one other firm that can claim the same volume and success” that Fox has had in TV, he said at the Sanford C Bernstein Strategic Decisions Conference in May. The increasingly visible Murdoch will further discuss Fox and its plans for the TV business when he delivers the Media Mastermind Keynote at October’s Mipcom. Murdoch was upped to his current role at Fox in March, in a clear indication that dad Rupert is putting his succession plans in order, and has been appearing publicly with far more frequency over the past year. He now has direct responsibility for 21st Century Fox’s TV interests, which include the Fox Networks Group in the U.S. and, internationally, holdings in BSkyB, Sky Deutschland, Sky Italia and STAR India. It’s a particularly interesting time for the European holdings as BSkyB in May confirmed it had initiated preliminary discussions with 21st Century Fox to evaluate the potential acquisition of its pay-TV assets in Germany and Italy. Meanwhile, Fox has also said it is looking to form a joint venture with Apollo Global Management which would combine the Shine Group, Endemol and CORE Media Group. Mipcom runs from October … Read More »
Longtime Sky executive Sophie Turner Laing is stepping down from her position as Managing Director of Content later this year, the 21st Century Fox-controlled company said today. Turner Laing has been with Sky for 11 years and has led the expansion of its portfolio of entertainment channels, with the launch of Sky Atlantic, Sky Living and Sky Arts during her tenure. She also was instrumental in Sky’s partnership with HBO — Sky Atlantic is the home of HBO series, and the pair has a first-run output deal through 2020. In January, they committed to co-developing and producing epic drama series. Turner Laing also has been key to Sky’s overall commitment to spending an annual £600M on original British programming. The timing of her exit — a day after the head of programming of another Rupert Murdoch-owned TV network, Fox’s Kevin Reilly, stepped down — has raised speculation about a possible connection and a transatlantic move for Turner Laing.
Related: Kevin Reilly’s Departure Signals Start Of ‘Pick A Replacement’ Derby, With New Rules
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BAFTA handed out its TV Awards in London this evening with ITV drama Broadchurch scoring a trifecta of prizes. The series, which is heading into production on its second season in the UK and is being remade in the U.S. as Gracepoint, won best drama, best actress for Olivia Colman and best supporting actor for David Bradley. The wins marked Colman’s third BAFTA and Bradley’s first. Colman’s previous nods were for comedy Twenty Twelve and drama Accused. Netflix had its first ever BAFTA win with Breaking Bad voted Best International series. Netflix is the series broadcaster in the UK where BAFTA late last year said it was updating its rules to include web-based broadcasters to be eligible for TV awards. Channel 4 drama Southcliffe and the same network’s comedy The IT Crowd led the overall nominations going in with four nods apiece. Southcliffe‘s Sean Harris was voted best actor in a drama and The IT Crowd‘s Katherine Parkinson and Richard Ayoade took the top comedy acting prizes. Best Situation Comedy honors went to BBC Three’s Him & Her: The Wedding. Supporting Actress winner was Sarah Lancashire in the BBC’s Last Tango In Halifax. Gogglebox, Channel 4′s reality show that watches people as they watch television, was voted tops in reality. Graham Norton hosted the ceremony at London’s Theatre Royal where presenters included Aaron Paul, Hugh Dancy, Jeremy Piven, Martin Freeman, Naomi Campbell, Sam Neill and Sheridan Smith. A full list of winners follows: Read More »
BSkyB Confirms Its Interest In Sky Deutschland & Sky Italia Stakes
Britain’s BSkyB on Monday acknowledged speculation over its potential acquisition of 21st Century Fox’s interests in European pay-TV groups Sky Deutschland and Sky Italia. Reports of talks had emerged over the weekend, and BSkyB today confirmed it had “initiated preliminary discussions with 21st Century Fox to evaluate the potential acquisition of its pay-TV assets in German and Italy. BSkyB believes at the right value, this combination would have the potential to create a world-class multinational pay-TV group.” Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox owns 39.1% of BSkyB, 57% of Sky Deutschland and 100% of Sky Italia. BSkyB shares were down 2.42% today, according to The Wall Street Journal, while shares in Sky Deutschland were up some 9.9%. There has lately been a trend toward consolidation across the European TV landscape, notably involving Murdoch frenemy John Malone. A combination of Murdoch’s businesses would have about 20M subscribers. Any deal surely would face serious regulatory scrutiny, but BSkyB was careful to say the talks had “not progressed beyond a preliminary stage.” There has been no agreement on “terms, value or transaction structure and there is no certainty that a transaction will occur.” It added that “all Board discussion of this topic is solely within a committee composed of the Independent Directors of BSkyB, in which Directors affiliated with 21st Century Fox do not participate.” For its part, 21st Century Fox said Monday, “Over the years we’ve had numerous internal discussions regarding the organizational and ownership structure of the European Sky-branded satellite platforms. From time to time these conversations have included BSkyB, however no agreement between the parties has ever been reached.” Read More »
BSkyB added 74,000 new TV customers in the quarter ended March 31. That was double the growth of last year’s Q3 and defied the increased compeition in the UK market. Shares in the pay-TV giant, which is 39% owned by Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox, were up about 3.9% in morning UK trading. Also fueling the positive market response was news that revenues grew by 6.6% to £5.66B. Operating profit and EBITDA were down 8.5% and 2.4%, respectively, although the shortfalls have been attributed to investments and write-offs in the connected TV and sports rights areas as well as the NOW TV online service which has shown strong traction. Sky CEO Jeremy Darroch said the group’s investment in connected TV services is delivering results with almost 50% of Sky homes now connected. On the content side, Sky, which has committed to spending an annual £600M on original British programming, has aired strong dramas this year like The Smoke, Fleming, Stella and Moone Boy. It has agreed 17 new sports rights deals since January — despite an ongoing battle with BT on the football field. Sky also has partnerships with HBO and ITV and today renewed its movie output deal with Paramount which gives the service exclusive UK pay-TV rights to titles like Noah and Anchorman 2. The multi-year licensing agreement also includes future releases such as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Transformers: Age … Read More »
The auction of Britain’s Channel 5 has come to an end. Viacom and Northern & Shell Media Group have agreed to a deal that will see Viacom International Media Networks pay £450M ($757M) for the broadcaster. Northern & Shell boss Richard Desmond acquired the free-to-air network in 2010 for £103.5M and was believed to be seeking a buyer willing to pay about £700M. As late as last month, Discovery and BSkyB were said to be teaming up to jointly bid about £350M for Channel 5, but the parties ultimately decided not to go forward. Viacom’s acquisition of Channel 5, which averages about a 4% share, will make it the first U.S. group to own a British public service broadcaster. The network is home to Big Brother and airs such U.S. dramas as Under The Dome, CSI and Person Of Interest. Channel 5 does not have much in-house product, but Viacom today said the deal would “dramatically increase” its investment in UK-produced content, which is good news for producers in the increasingly hot UK TV sector. Viacom’s international reach through its pay-TV businesses will also be seen as a lucrative window for UK producers. “We look forward to partnering with local producers to introduce more UK-created content to global audiences, and will continue to explore opportunities in the UK, both in the free-to-air … Read More »
Back in February, word began to spread that longtime frenemies John Malone and Rupert Murdoch were eyeing a joint acquisition of the UK’s Channel 5. Malone-backed Discovery Communications and BSkyB, majority owned by Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox, have now reportedly gone ahead and sewn up a deal. Broadcast reported that Discovery and BskyB are nearing an announcement they have acquired the broadcaster in a deal valued at £350M, which would give the former a 70% stake and the latter 30%. But media entrepreneur Richard Desmond’s Northern & Shell, owner of Channel 5, has said it received several bids and was still evaluating them, according to Bloomberg. The free-to-air broadcaster was thought to be seeking a buyer with about £700M to spend, but many were skeptical it would fetch such a price; Desmond paid about £103.5M for it in 2010. Other companies that have been said to have shown interest include Viacom, Turner Broadcasting, BT, NBCUniversal and Saban Capital.
Channel 5 is notably the home of Big Brother, although its contract for the show expires in 2015. The net also airs U.S. dramas like Under The Dome, CSI and Person Of Interest; weekly average ratings hover around 4%. Read More »
Jan Koeppen, the current COO of 21st Century Fox Europe and Asia, is making a transition to Fox International Channels where he will take over as President of Europe and Africa. He is stepping into the position vacated by Jesus Perezagua, who announced his departure last month. Koeppen will be based in London and report to President and CEO Hernan Lopez. The exec will have P&L responsibility for FIC’s 94 TV and online services across 88 countries in Europe and Africa where leading channel brands include Fox, Fox Sports, Fox Life and National Geographic Channel. As COO of 21st Century Fox, Koeppen has overseen the group’s portfolio of companies including Sky Italia, Sky Deutschland, BSkyB, Star India and Fox Turkey. Among his myriad transactions, Koeppen was instrumental in the creation of Star India as a stand-alone operation and in the acquisition of a majority stake in Sky Deutschland. He serves on the boards of Sky Deutschland, Tata Sky and Fox Turkey. Koeppen was previously with Boston Consulting Group.
Avon Pension Fund and others who owned News Corp stock from mid-February to mid-July 2011 charged in the class action suit that Rupert Murdoch, James Murdoch, former News Of The World editor Rebekah Brooks, and other execs at News Corp (before it split into two companies) committed fraud when the UK hacking scandal was unfolding. They told the public — including in testimony at Parliament — that it was just an isolated problem, and it wasn’t. When the widespread extent of the hacking became known in mid-2011, News Corp shares fell 17%, and it derailed the company’s plan to buy British Sky Broadcasting. But a U.S. District Court in New York dismissed the case today, Reuters reports. The problem? Judge Paul Gardephe said that the News Corp execs couldn’t be held liable for statements made before the period when the plaintiffs said that they lost money.”To hold otherwise would require adopting an ‘endless breach argument,’ which would permit plaintiffs to circumvent the well-settled rule that defendants are liable only for those statements made during the class period,” Gardephe says.
Allan Leighton, Linda Robinson Named To eOne Board
Canadian giant Entertainment One has appointed Allan Leighton to its board as Non-Executive Director and Chairman. He replaces James Corsellis as Chairman, though Corsellis will remain a Non-Exec Director. Leighton is a former board director of BSkyB in the U.K. and previously was Chairman of The Royal Mail, CEO of Asda Stores Limited and Walmart Europe, Deputy Chairman of Selfridges & Co and Chairman of LastMinute.com. Also joining the eOne board a little more than a year after its acquisition of Alliance Films is media attorney Linda Robinson as Non-Exec Director. Patrice Theroux, who leads eOne’s global film business, is stepping down from the board to focus on his exec responsibilities. Read More »
Netflix Bringing ‘Fargo’ To The Netherlands
Netflix has scored rights to new series Fargo for the Netherlands. The 10-episode limited series is inspired by the Coen brothers’ 1996 feature and will be available exclusively to Netflix members beginning April 16. New episodes will roll out weekly on Netflix Netherlands within 24 hours of the U.S. broadcast on FX. Fargo is produced by MGM Television and FX Productions with MGM handling worldwide distribution. Billy Bob Thornton stars as a rootless, manipulative man who meets and forever changes the life of a small-town insurance salesman (Martin Freeman). Colin Hanks, Allison Tolman, Bob Odenkirk, Oliver Platt, Kate Walsh, Glenn Howerton, Joey King, Peter Breitmayer, Tom Musgrave, Josh Close, Russell Harvard, Adam Goldberg, Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele round out the cast. Read More »
In a deal that gives it further access to the Chinese market, Discovery Communications has partnered with China’s Wasu Digital TV Media Group to supply content for new local pay-TV channel Qiu Suo. The subscription channel launched earlier this week and offers factual and lifestyle entertainment programming from outlets including Discovery Channel, TLC and Animal Planet. Wasu is owned by State-run outfits Hangzhou Culture, Radio and Television Group and the Zhejiang Radio and Television Group. It has China’s largest digital content library and about 20M subscribers. Discovery, some of whose programming was already available in China via other providers, will act as a channel and content consultant for Qiu nSuo. Arjan Hoekstra, president and managing director of Discovery Networks Asia-Pacific, said, “The new channel will introduce millions of Chinese viewers to some of Discovery’s best content and, building on the success of our existing business in China, paves the way for the next phase of growth for Discovery in one of the world’s fastest growing economies.” Discovery has been on a big international push of late. In January, it fast-tracked its acquisition of a controlling stake in pan-European platform Eurosport, and last year bought the SBS Nordic operations of Germany’s ProSiebenSat.1. It’s also understood to be considering a bid for the UK’s Channel 5.
In this week’s audio podcast, Deadline International Editor Nancy Tartaglione and host David Bloom look at the possibility that frenemies John Malone and Rupert Murdoch will combine and snap up the UK’s Channel 5, even as a booming ITV opts out; and Amazon’s new combination platter of Prime services that are challenging Netflix more aggressively in Britain, including through a partnership with the BBC to revive the cancelled period drama Ripper Street. They also preview those other big awards this weekend, France’s Cesars, and take their weekly look at the international box office, as both Frozen and The Hobbit 2: The Desolation Of Smaug continue to rack up huge cumulative grosses.
Global Showbiz Watch podcast 27 (.MP3 version)
Global Showbiz Watch podcast 27 (.M4A version)
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In a re-alignment of its U.S. network portfolio, Discovery Communications has named Eileen O’Neill to be Group President of the Discovery Channel and has been given oversight of Science Channel and Velocity — two networks seen to have tremendous growth opportunity. TLC, which O’Neill is credited with turning around, has been given to the care of Marjorie Kaplan, who becomes Group President of TLC and Animal Planet, while Henry Schleiff adds O’Neill’s Discovery Fit & Health network to his watch, as Group President of that network and Investigation Discovery, Destination America, and American Heroes Channel.
Related: Military Channel Changing Name To American Heroes Channel
“Nearly 70% of our global output is developed, commissioned and acquired in the U.S.,” company CEO David Zaslav said this morning in a memo to staff. “Most of our big characters, new franchises and tent pole specials have been developed by U.S. Network creative teams. We continue to invest in new international and local content, but it turns out that Gold Rush, River Monsters and I (Almost) Got Away With It attract an audience in almost every market in the world. The optionality of sharing our programming across so many brands and countries, and lining up that domestic content engine to support our global distribution growth overall, is key to our success.” He noted the cpmpany’s marketshare in the U.S. is up significantly over the past six years, growing from 5% in 2007 to nearly 12% today, “and that creative output has helped drive marketshare growth of nearly 25% internationally during the same time.”
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The Irish Film and Television Academy has unveiled its nominees for the 11th annual Irish Film and Television Awards, which takes place on April 5 in Dublin. In the Best Film category are Neil Jordan’s Byzantium; John Michael McDonagh’s Calvary; Steph Green’s Run & Jump; Stephen Brown’s The Sea; and John Butler’s The Stag. Ruiri Robinson is nominated for director for his debut sci-fi feature film The Last Days On Mars alongside Butler, Jordan and McDonagh. The Best Actor category includes Brendan Gleeson for Calvary; Domhnall Gleeson for About Time; Ciarán Hinds in The Sea; and The Stag’s Andrew Scott. Antonia Campbell-Hughes is nominated for Best Actress in 3096 Days, alongside Saoirse Ronan in Byzantium; Jane McGrath in Black Ice; and Kelly Thornton in Life’s A Breeze. The male supporting race includes Colin Farrell for Saving Mr Banks; Michael Fassbender for 12 Years A Slave; Edward MacLiam for Run & Jump and Peter McDonald for The Stag. Female supporting actors recognized are Sinead Cusack for The Sea; Fionnula Flannigan for Life’s A Breeze; Amy Huberman for The Stag and Orla O’Rourke for Calvary. Up for Best International Film are 12 Years A Slave, Gravity, Philomena and The Wolf Of Wall Street. Among TV nominees is Gillian Anderson thriller The Fall; HBO’s Game Of Thrones; historical action drama Vikings; period crime series Quirke; and urban drama Love/Hate. Downton Abbey, Moone Boy and Dracula also scored acting nods. The full list of IFTA nominees is here. Read More »