South Korean media giant CJ ENM has struck a near-$1bn deal to rapidly expand its global scripted presence by taking an 80% stake in Endeavor Content.
The agreement with the prodco’s US-based owner, Endeavor Group Holding, will see the Seoul-based firm invest $775m, including a $120m contribution to Endeavor Content. The deal values the company at close to $970m.
CJ ENM’s stake will hand it management rights, with Endeavor retaining 20% of the scripted side of the business. Endeavor will also retain non-scripted operations, as well as certain documentary, film sales and financing consulting services.
Graham Taylor and Chris Rice will continue to lead the company as co-CEOs, with the deal expected to close early next year.
The sale comes six months since Endeavor agreed to divest 80% of its scripted interests to settle its long-running dispute with the Writers Guild of America (WGA), which was concerned that the growing focus on production was not in the best interests of talent on its books.
This is the largest M&A deal struck by CJ ENM, which has previously invested in Skydance Media and DreamWorks – the latter upon its move into the content business 26 years ago.
The business has also more recently bought Nordic distributor Eccho Rights and follows a recent trend of South Korean companies expanding their global interests.
CJ ENM said it would leverage Endeavor’s distribution channels and use the acquired company’s original IP portfolio to support the global roll-out of its OTT platform, TVING. Just this summer, the Korean firm said it would invest more than ₩5tn ($4.5bn) in content creation over the next five years to fuel global growth.
Endeavor Content, meanwhile, launched in 2017 and has owned, financed and/or sold more than 125 films and television series.
Titles include In the Heights and Just Mercy for Warner Brothers, Book Club for Paramount Pictures, Blue Miracle for Netflix, and Joe Bell with Roadside Attractions, while it has also handled global distribution for series such Killing Eve, The Night Manager, Normal People, The Panthers and Nine Perfect Strangers.
Upcoming film projects include The Lost Daughter for Netflix, and Michael Bay’s theatrical release Ambulance, while forthcoming shows include Ben Stiller’s Severance and Nicole Kidman’s Roar for Apple TV+, Wolf Like Me for Peacock, Michael Mann’s Tokyo Vice for HBO Max, and Amy Schumer’s Life & Beth for Hulu.
At the start of this year, Endeavor Content inked a multi-year deal with CJ ENM-backed South Korean prodco Bon Factory, to develop TV projects in both English and Korean languages for the global market, as well as adapt formats for each for each other’s markets.
More recently, the company acquired veteran producer Brad Weston’s Makeready in a multi-year financing and production deal, and partnered with former eOne exec John Morayniss to launch new Toronto-based outfit Blink Studios.
Last year, it took a minority stake in The Ink Factory, the London and LA-based production firm behind The Night Manager and also struck a development deal to adapt British author Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels for TV.
CJ ENM is best known for its Oscar-winning film Parasite, as well as films such as Snowpiercer and Miss Granny, while its TV credits include Crash Landing On You, Goblin: The Lonely And Great God and Hospital Playlist.
The company is also co-producing a drama series with US-based Skydance Media as part of its strategic partnership made early last year and is behind a TV adaptation of Parasite, set to broadcast on HBO.
The Korean firm’s format interests, meanwhile, include entertainment show I Can See Your Voice, which has been broadcast and/or remade in more than 23 regions.
In June, CJ ENM struck a co-production partnership with Japan’s Tokyo Broadcasting System Group to help accelerate the latter’s expansion into the global marketplace, as well as its shift towards digital content
“Four years ago, we set out to build a talent-first studio that prioritised greater creative freedom and ownership,” said Ariel Emanuel, CEO, Endeavor. “Graham Taylor, Chris Rice and the entire Endeavor Content team delivered on that promise, and this transaction further underscores the enduring value of talent and premium content.”
“We are excited to announce this deal with Endeavor Content, a company that is growing at a remarkable speed in the US and European markets,” added Kang Ho-Sung, CEO, CJ ENM. “We are confident that this deal will create synergy between both companies, globally acknowledged for their production capabilities and list of hit IP properties.