Television Business International

New indie group buys Content & others for $104m

Content Media Corp. is one of six companies that has been sold to a new Toronto-based investment vehicle led by entertainment entrepreneurs Steven Silver and Peter Sussman.

Peter SussmanKew Media Group is buying 100% of transatlantic production and distribution firm Content, and Toronto-based producers Architect Films, Bristow Global Media, Media Headquarters Film & Television and Our Media House, and Winnipeg’s Frantic Films.

Kew is also taking control of five Content-controlled companies: Finland-based Aito Media, Alex Gibney’s doc-focused Jigsaw Productions, Campfire Film & Television, LA’s Collins Avenue Productions and Spirit Digital Media. Formats unit Small World IFT is not included in the deal, which in total will cost C$104.1 million.

Content is best known as the distributor of BBC police drama Line of Duty along with its reputation as a digital content distribution specialist.

Its management team will stay in place, with CEO John Schmidt becoming a member of Kew’s board. Other board members include former CBS Entertainment chief Nancy Tellem.

Content CFO Geoff Webb and head of legal and business affairs Erick Kwak continue in their current roles and will carry out the same duties for parent group, Kew.

Coming a combined total cost of C$104.1 million, Kew gains a library of more than 6,000 hours, with five companies owned outright and five majority owned. The company will have primary offices in New York, Toronto, LA and London.

Kew launched with an initial IPO on the Toronto Stock Exchange seven months ago as a ‘special purpose acquisition company’ designed to build a stable of film and television production companies. Further acquisitions are planned.

Kew Media has secured a private placement of C$20 million form current shareholders and new investors, with shares priced at US$10 each.

The company will pay vendors 68% of their equity in Kew shares and 32% in cash up front, which it says reflects “significant confidence in Kew’s strategy and potential for substantial value accretion, as well as strongly aligning them with company-wide performance”.

Completion of the acquisitions is expected in March 2017, with the total cost potentially rising to C$115.4 million dependent on financial targets being met.

Steven SilverKew founders Silver (right) and Sussman (above left) are television industry veterans with combined experience of more than 55 years.

Silver is currently partner and co-founder at Canada’s Blue Ice Group, which bought into Barna-Alper Productions in 2005 and owns companies such as South African prodco Out of Africa and Blue Ice Pictures. He was also head of Entertainment One’s factual entertainment unit after the company acquired Barna-Alper in 2007.

Sussman is best known as the entertainment division CEO and a key shareholder of Alliance Atlantis, during which time he launched and shepherded the CSI: Crime Scene Investigation He later became founder and executive chairman of Aver Media, which has various investments in media companies and is now part of BMO Financial Group.

They say forming the new group based around Content will see more than 250 properties or ideas in development in the next 12 to 24 months. They plan to provide support and a network to producers to develop more content that is then shipped out through.

Content CEO John Schmidt
Content CEO John Schmidt

“We are content guys; it’s what we love, it’s what we do,” said Silver and Sussman in a statement. “There has never been a better time to be in the content business. We are incredibly excited by the companies we have brought together in Kew. It is a perfect platform for growth and further acquisitions.”

Kew’s board includes Julie Bristow, the former CBC content chief who created Bristow Global Media; a number of private equity executives; Silver’s Blue Ice business partner Neil Tabatznik; Spin Master executive VP Mark Segal; and Tellem, the former president of CBS Network Television Group who left her most recent role at Xbox Entertainment in 2015.

Kew is projecting revenues of C$218.3 million in the 2017 financial year, which would make it one of the most significant production and distribution entities in worldwide television.