In this week’s podcast, Deadline International Editor Nancy Tartaglione and host David Bloom take apart the just-announced deal by Discovery and Liberty Global to buy All3Media for $930 million and look at who might be next in line as the global buying spree in TV production companies continues. They also catch up on still more news ahead of next week’s opening of the Cannes Film Festival, with pictures involving Bryan Cranston, Jennifer Aniston and Elisabeth Moss, even as a squad of aging Expendables plans to roll onto the Croisette; look at a U.S. production with a good reason besides tax incentives to shoot in London; and a kingly casting for the BBC adaptation of Wolf Hall.
The price, at £550M is less than All3Media‘s majority shareholder Permira originally wanted. But the deal puts the UK production company in the hands of two formidable global TV providers who have created a joint venture for the purchase and vowed to let All3Media remain a stand-alone entity. Discovery and Liberty Global “come with a long-term view of the importance of building a leading global content company and appreciate All3Media’s distinctive philosophy of creative freedom and diversity,” says All3Media Chairman Steve Morrison. The partnership will help his company “to expand further through multiple avenues of growth around the world, including in the U.S. market, which has been a driver for our business for the past several years.”
It’s the latest addition to a new breed of company that some refer to as “mega indies.” This also is a big step for Discovery and Liberty’s international expansion — endorsed by John Malone, who controls nearly 28% of the votes at Liberty Global and 29% at Discovery. Liberty bought Virgin Media in 2013 and earlier this year agreed to pay $9.4B in cash and stock for Dutch cable operator Ziggo. In January, Discovery 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. The move also lays to rest long percolating rumors that FremantleMedia was poised to acquire All3Media.
Here’s today’s release:
David Zaslav didn’t want to directly address reports that he’s considering a run at UK independent TV production power All3Media and weighed a bid for the country’s Channel 5, which Viacom just agreed to buy. But in an earnings call with analysts this morning the Discovery CEO left the door open for a deal, and protected his negotiating leverage by saying that he could easily walk away. “We look at everything but only want to buy assets that will help us strategically,” he says. “We’re in the 4th inning in terms of our growth strategy internationally.” While he says that Discovery can grow organically and doesn’t “need to buy anything,” it also wants to be “opportunistic.”
Execs were a little defensive after Discovery reported slightly disappointing results for Q1, which led the stock to open -3%. The company volunteered that Oprah Winfrey’s OWN network has grown so much over the last year that it was able to pay back $16M vs last year when Discovery had to funnel $14M to the channel. And while Discovery Channel was “hit hard by the Olympics,” Zaslav says, its ratings “did rally and we’re up 12% in prime [time] in April.”
Former Ryan Seacrest SVP Development and Current Unscripted Programming Heather Schuster has launched her own reality production company, Morocco Junction Entertainment, which is being backed by All3Media. It will be based out of All3Media America’s Los Angeles offices. During her tenure with RSP, Schuster oversaw such series as the recently announced Dream Date for Fox, Girls In The Game for Vh1, Go Viral for Nickelodeon, as well as The Wanted Life for E! and How I Rock It for Esquire. Before that, Schuster spent four years at Reveille and worked as a producer on the first five seasons of The Apprentice. Morocco marks the first company to join Studio Lambert USA under the umbrella of All3Media America, which was established last year.
Completing the succession process that began last fall when Farah Ramzan Golant was appointed CEO, All3Media founder and executive chairman Steve Morrison is segueing to the role of non-executive chairman as of July 1. UK-based All3Media owns more than a dozen production companies including Company Pictures (The White Queen) and Gordon Ramsay’s One Potato Two Potato. Earlier this year, it set up All3Media America whose scripted division is run by former Bad Robot executive Eric Lehrman. Morrison founded All3Media 10 years ago and the company says he will continue to play “an important role to leverage his undoubted experience, energy and creative standing in the industry.”
All3Media Launches Scripted Division Run By Eric Lehrman, Inks Deal With Reality Producer Omid Kahangi
EXCLUSIVE: All3Media America, the recently launched U.S. branch of the UK’s All3Media, is formally starting a scripted division. It will be run by former Bad Robot executive Eric Lehrman, named VP Scripted Television. The move reflects the company’s desire to enter the U.S. scripted business and build on All3Media’s slate of international scripted formats, including shows from Company Pictures (Shameless, Skins, The Village, Secret State), Lime Pictures (Hollyoaks), Objective Productions (Peep Show, Fresh Meat), South Pacific (Outrageous Fortune, The Almighty Johnsons), and Bentley (Midsomer Murders). All3Media America principals Eli Holzman and Stephen Lambert said that getting into scripted is something they had been looking to do since the two launched Studio Lambert USA in 2008.
Maverick Television, a division of Britain’s ALL3MEDIA, is launching a US arm and expanding in the UK. Maverick managing director Jim Sayer and creative director Alexandra Fraser have been upped to joint CEOs of the company. The pair has appointed Adam Greener EVP of Maverick Television U.S.A. He’ll head up the company’s LA-based operations to develop bespoke programming for the US market and adapt current UK formats. In the UK, BBC and Channel 5 vet Ben Gale has also joined Maverick as director of programming. Mark Downie, previously executive producer of such Maverick shows as Embarrassing Bodies, Billy Connolly’s Route 66, Children’s Hospital and Bizarre E.R., has been named head of non-fiction and documentaries. Maverick has also entered a partnership with Discovery Networks International which is commissioning 20 hours of original factual and lifestyle programming to include Body Confidential fronted by Lisa Snowdon and the second season of personal transformation series, My Naked Secret.
TV Production Company All3Media Suspends Sale Efforts After 6 Months
CEO Steve Morrison and the company’s board, including chief executive Steve Morrison, made the decision on a conference call Sunday, The Daily Telegraph reported. Sony Entertainment and private-equity firms are thought to be among the bidders, all of whom apparently came in too low for major stakeholder Permira. The private-equity house acquired its share of All3Media for $502M in 2006 and was thought to be seeking around $1.1B. The desire to capitalize on the U.S. success of its Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares and Skins and find a partner to expand internationally was considered a driving force for the sale. All3Media declined comment.
Discovery Communications has signed non-exclusive deals with Shine Group, All3Media and WTFN as part of the launch of a new virtual global unit of its production arm Discovery Studios focused on developing big content franchises. Under the pacts, Discovery Studios will work with the three companies to develop and commission original lifestyle, specialist, factual and general entertainment formats for Discovery’s networks around the world including Discovery Channel and TLC. The deal also includes pilot commitments for the three companies. Discovery Studios has been aggressive in signing unscripted producers, recently announcing overall deals with Eddie Barbini (Dirty Jobs), Rob Hammersly (Mythbusters) and Daniel Soiseth (Hell’s Kitchen).
The ex-president of the CBS Network Television Group who’s now a CBS Inc consultant has become a non-executive director of the UK’s largest group of independent production companies. Tellem joins All3Media at an interesting time. The company is the last big independent UK TV producer left on the market. It’s expected to be sold next year to either a Hollywood studio anxious to get more into global TV production — such as Time Warner or Sony – or Brit broadcaster ITV, which needs to beef up its in-house production. Financiers I’ve spoken to expect the price tag to be around £500 million ($788 million). All3Media produces Undercover Boss for CBS and Skins for MTV.
There’s nothing to UK newspaper reports over the weekend that Time Warner is eyeing the independent TV producer as its next acquisition, I’m told. “There’s nothing to it and nobody’s aware of any offer to come,” one insider tells me. Time Warner is completing its £100 million ($159 million) takeover of Brit TV production company Shed Media. All3Media produces teen soap Hollyoaks for Channel 4 and ITV crime drama Midsummer Murders, which has sold to 204 countries. If Time Warner was to buy All3Media, then the combined Shed/All3Media would become the UK’s biggest independent production company with combined revenues of £316.7 million ($502 million), according to trade mag Broadcast. Shine Group, the UK’s biggest independent producer with turnover of £265 million, would be pushed into second place. Both All3Media and Time Warner declined to comment.