The amount is the same as Time Warner’s previous offer for the reality TV producer. But the entertainment giant now tells Endemol that it’s willing to pay all cash — not a combination of cash and debt — if the company wants. Endemol execs had made no secret of their disdain for Time Warner’s previous bid, which one insider referred to as “rock bottom.” The revised offer comes as Endemol approaches its December 13 deadline for a debt-for-equity swap designed to reduce the company’s debt to $670M from $3.7B. Once that happens, the company could be put up for auction. But the situation is complicated: One of Endemol’s biggest shareholders — Italy’s Mediaset, controlled by former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi — is also interested in buying the producer of shows including Big Brother, and Deal Or No Deal. It has said that it would not participate in an auction. Apollo Management, Centerbridge, and Providence Equity Partners and banks including Barclays and RBS are among Endemol’s biggest creditors.
It’s using some of the money released by cancelling the show for two new comedy drama series. Channel 4 paid £60-65 million in a three-year deal for the Big Brother rights. Big Brother was thought to be moving across to Five but I understand talks between producer Endemol and Five have now stalled. (Endemol declined comment.) Beaver Falls, a new 6-part show for digital channel E4, follows three British lads who con their way into an American summer camp for the ridiculously beautiful offspring of Manhattan’s rich and powerful. The camp thinks it’s getting three British blue-bloods. (Hang on, I can feel a US remake coming on already…) The show is executive produced by Charlie Pattinson for Company Pictures (Skins, Shameless), produced by Liz Lewin and created by Iain Hollands. Naked Apes, which is being made for the main channel, is also a 6-parter about the lives, loves and mishaps of a bunch of paramedics in the northern city of Leeds. The writer is Brian Fillis (An Englishman in New York) and the producers are Chris Clough and Hal Vogel for Daybreak Pictures. Both new series will air summer 2011.
Richard Desmond, new owner of Channel 5, could pay as little as £20 million ($30 million) for the reality show, one insider tells me. Desmond wants the Endemol show to transfer from Channel 4, where it ended its 11th series this week, to his new Channel 5. Channel 4 paid £60-65 million in a three-year deal for the Big Brother rights from Endemol. Like Desmond’s audacious £103.5 million swoop on Channel Five, it’s not as if there are any other bidders out there. Big Brother has been getting average daily ratings of 2.5 million – an all-time low for the reality show on Channel 4 – and would probably get 1.5-2 million daily on Channel 5. That is still healthy for a channel whose top-rated daily show, Aussie soap Neighbours, gets around 1.5 million viewers.
Even more important is the audience Big Brother attracts. Channel Five doesn’t need any more downmarket, older viewers. They’re the easiest to attract because they spend all day watching TV at home. The hardest market for advertisers are young, upmarket audiences, the demographic which watches the least TV — which Big Brother delivered in droves when it first launched. Media commentator Steve Hewlett tells me: “I can see the commercial logic for Desmond wanting Big Brother if it has any life left in it. The show still has a commercial value in the marketplace because of its audience.”
Desmond has talked publicly about how he wants the …