Exclusive: Newen’s int’l boss talks Kubik deal & Europe-wide strategy

Philippe Levasseur

Newen Group has followed up its deal for iZen Group in Spain by returning to the country to take a minority stake in La Zona prodco Kubik Films. The French production & distribution company’s head of international Philippe Levasseur, in his first interview since being appointed to the role, tells TBI’s Pascale Paoli-Lebailly about further acquisition plans for Germany and Italy, matching US budgets and ‘soft integration’.

Just two weeks after first landing on the Spanish market by taking a majority stake in El Cid prodco iZen Group, France’s Newen Group has now taken a minority stake in Alberto and Jorge Sánchez-Cabezudo’s company Kubik Films.

Kubik, which was founded in 2016 was co-founded by the Sánchez-Cabezudo brothers, whose credits include Crematorium for Canal+ in Spain, Movistar+ drama La Zona, and Bajo Sospecha from Bambú Producciones.

The agreement, which includes a distribution pact with recently revamped sales division Newen Connect, marks the latest expansion for the French group as it looks to compete in the hugely competitive drama and documentary production industry in Europe and provides a “new burst of creativity” to the firm, according to Philippe Levasseur, head of international at Newen Group.

La Zona

‘Soft integration, exchanges & creative synergies’

Speaking in his first interview since being appointed earlier this year, Levasseur says Kubik Films’ minority acquisition, which has the potential to turn into a majority stake in the short term, provides additional creative firepower to Newen’s international strategy.

Since 2017 and the acquisition of Tuvalu in Holland, Newen has expanded fast in Europe. The company now owns Nimbus in Denmark, Pupkin in Holland, De Mensen in Belgium, North American/UK firm Reel One, Ringside Studio formed in 2020, The Fiction House and iZen in 2021.

Claiming a library of 6,000 hours and 1,000 films, following the integration last year of TF1 Studio, Newen is now also aiming to establish itself as one of the major European players in production and distribution. With Kubik Films, the group enlarges a European network described as a “collective of producers”.

“Like all our sister companies, Newen backs them whenever they need it, for market intelligence, business or legal affairs. A key asset is our strong distribution branch, Newen Connect, which help productions travel and find additional funding,” explains Levasseur, whose mission is to coordinate and support the activities and development of all the group’s International entities, as well as to encourage synergies.

“We are based in seven European countries, but each company keeps its cultural identity and its local specificity. This model doesn’t prevent local productions like Candice Renoir (Telfrance), to be licenced into 100 countries, or Undercover (De Mensen) or La Zona from travelling worldwide. This is a soft integration, based on exchanges and the ambition to find creative synergies on ideas, formats and production processes.”

El Cid

All Newen structures have access to the wide library and are regularly informed about formats and films that could open up on local remakes. After two seasons on Netflix, De Mensen’s drama series Undercover, initially produced for VRT, is set for a remake in France, for example. In parallel, the company is coproducing with UK and Italian firms on a reality drama series based on the Heysel Stadium disaster.

“Romain Bessi, MD of Newen, has been very active on acquisitions,” Levasseur adds. “I’m here to push producers forward creatively and develop the relationships on drama, docs and entertainment formats. We want to answer to their expectations,” adds the former Capa Press MD, who has been working since April with Ella Cohen, newly named head of market intelligence & international synergies.

Skyward budgets

Over the past five years, few format synergies have been observed within the group and roughly no projects have come to a positive conclusion. iZen’s original format Insiders, Netflix’s first reality show in Spain, could open new opportunities.

On the documentary side, the group is working on international matters and local ideas with global scope, such as Capa’s Room 2806: The Accusation, a docuseries that follows the 2011 sexual assault case involving French politician Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

And since April, Levasseur has been telling producers that the sky isn’t the limit.

“Newen will support ambitious projects, either on IP rights acquisitions or in the hiring of famous authors or directors, even if they’re American. The budgets of our European series for the platforms are aligned with the US ones.”

Though its core market remains TV and streamers, Newen is also looking to attract talents from the movie industry and feature film projects from Capa Presse, Nimbus and iZen open perspectives.

Romain Bessi

Further acquisitions in Germany & Italy

There are also more growth plans in the works. Following its idea of developing a “conglomerate and creative network”, the French group believes its structure and model provide strength in the face of the growing competition on the European and international markets.

“The European market is very dynamic regarding drama and documentary,” Levasseur points out. “Platforms are all opening bureaus in capital cities like Paris because they need local talents and contents.

“At the same time, local national broadcasters are all commissioning complementary programs. The enactment of the AVMSD Euro directive, which forecasts to up local content investment for streamers (25% in France), will give a burst to the activity of groups such as Newen with close European partnerships.”

Newen’s expansion is not set to stop soon. The group, which is backed by French giant TF1, is now eyeing Germany and Italy as the next two countries where it will set down roots, following a rejig earlier this year that saw the company combine its domestic interests – Telfrance, Capa and 17 Juin – within Newen France.

Many more developments are now on the horizon.

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