What’s Behind the Indie TV Prodco Buying Spree?

What’s that? You didn’t know there was one? Well the good folks at Deadline.Com are here to tell you all about it…cuz they’re busy trying to prove that we should always go to them instead of sites like The Hollywood Reporter, Variety, and Deadline’s archenemy, The Wrap.

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by Nancy Tartaglione

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 redarrowregion.

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.

SherlockSo 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. “There is a very rich commissioning opportunity added together with a significant amount of spend by the BBC, Sky and others,” one UK-based exec says.

Indeed, Sky alone has committed to ponying up £600M per year on original British content. And, with the closure of BBC Three, BBC One is gaining an extra £30M for drama. The Scandi market is of obvious skyinterest given the hits that have come from there both in their original language and in adapted versions like The Killing. The strategy there could be summed up as an effort to keep things more lucrative by keeping them in-house.

With a lot of content floating around inside some of the bigger companies, it makes more sense to produce those shows in local versions via their own shingles. Scandinavia, Israel, Turkey and Holland are also on the map “because the creativity coming out of there is gaining attention from the rest of the world, so they’re good places to generate IP and maybe own it,” an exec says.

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