Newen takes majority stake in ‘El Cid’ prodco iZen Group

El Cid

French producer and distributor Newen has taken a majority stake in Spanish drama and factual outfit iZen Group.

iZen was founded two decades ago by Jose Velasco and is home to companies including Zebra Producciones, Europroducciones, Boca a Boca, Hill Valley, Proima and Newco in Spain.

The group also houses Imagic TV in the Middle East, as well as Chalkboard TV, Storyboard Studios and recently launched Clapperboard in the UK.

Romain Bessi

Financial details were not disclosed but Newen said Velasco and CEO Sara Fernández-Velasco would remain partners and directors of iZen Group.

The French company’s MD Romain Bessi described the acquisition as a “major step” in his company’s international strategy.

Newen’s expanded footprint

iZen joins a fast-growing European operation for Newen, which acquired Tuvalu in Holland in 2017 and Nimbus in Denmark a year later. Pupkin in Holland, De Mensen in Belgium and North American/UK firm Reel One were added in 2019, followed by the creation of Ringside Studio in 2020 in the UK, then Fiction house in 2021.

The deal, which comes three years after iZen was created when Veralia Contenidos (Grupo Vocento) merged with Zebra Productions, launched its big budget drama El Cid for Amazon Prime Video earlier this year.

Its companies work with streamers and Spanish broadcasters on more than 1,400 hours each year, with El Cid‘s second season set for release on Amazon later in 2021. Shows in development include Memento Mori, adapted from the bestseller by César Pérez Gellida, which will be distributed by Newen Connect.

El Cid

The group has also created and adapted unscripted formats including Insiders, the first reality show created in Spain for Netflix.

Spanish focus

Newen said that the deal was part of its strategy to expand in Spain, which it said had “become a key player in the audiovisual sector thanks to its talents and the attractiveness of its content for international markets.”

The firm added: “Already present on the French and English-speaking markets, Newen is now taking a leading position in the Spanish-speaking world.”

Romain Bessi, MD of Newen, said: “It is a pleasure to work with Jose, Sara and their teams, whom we know well from previous collaborations. Newen is present in all genres and in many more territories to come. With this acquisition, we are now one of the major European players in production and distribution.

Velasco said: “Our alliance with Newen and our integration into one of the main European industrial players represents a great opportunity for the future and growth of iZen in the Spanish and European audiovisual sector.”

Newen, meanwhile, has been restructuring is operations recently and rejigged its domestic companies earlier this year by combining Telfrance, CAPA and 17 Juin into a single entity. Before that, it had brought together the commercial activities of Newen Distribution, TF1 Studio and Reel One International together to form Newen Connect last year.

Former Sky Vision and NBCUniversal exec Leona Connell was then hired to lead its global sales division, joining as EVP of distribution and reporting to Newen’s recently appointed chief distribution officer Rodolphe Buet.

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