Germany’s ProSiebenSat.1 Group is bolstering its digital and production business with the acquisition of a 20% stake in Collective Digital Studio. The U.S.-based multichannel network produces, distributes, and markets video content via digital platforms. ProSieben, which made the acquisition through subsid Red Arrow Entertainment, says CDS gets about 1 billion video views per month on its 600 channels and has more than 100 million subscribers. Its properties include The Annoying Orange and Video Game High School. It also develops formats in the action, beauty & lifestyle, comedy, kids & family, and music genres. The acquisition follows a raft of U.S. investments by Red Arrow which recently bought Say Yes To The Dress maker Half Yard Prods, and also owns Kinetic Content, Fabrik Entertainment and Left/Right Prods. Via the CDS stake, ProSieben/Red Arrow will have access to the rapidly growing global online video market and a roster of international talent. Last year, ProSiebenSat.1 formed its own multichannel network in Germany, Studio71, where its current web production activities are bundled. Under the new deal, Studio71 will receive video content from CDS and marketing will be handled in-house by SevenOne Media. Red Arrow and CDS will also back online talent and develop new content verticals. Red Arrow will provide support for content distribution.
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.
Yet another U.S.-based unscripted production company is being snapped up by a European conglom. Munich-based Red Arrow Entertainment Group has acquired a majority stake in Half Yard Prods., which has offices in New York and Bethesda, MD. Founded in 2006 by Sean Gallagher and Abby Greensfelder, Half Yard focuses on reality series, factual entertainment and documentaries. It is the top producer of wedding programming in the U.S. with Say Yes To The Dress, I Found The Gown and Randy To The Rescue for TLC. The company’s portfolio also includes Diggers on Nat Geo, How the States Got Their Shapes on History, Hillbilly Handfishin; on Animal Planet and American Loggers on Discovery. Gallagher and Greensfelder will continue as co-CEOs. Half Yard joins Red Arrow’s other U.S. production holdings, Kinetic Content, Fabrik Entertainment and Left/Right Prods.