Banijay is in the final stages of expanding its burgeoning scripted portfolio across Europe with a number of deals set to be unveiled in the coming weeks, underlining its extended push into the genre.
The France-based company has several scripted production company acquisitions in the works, TBI understands, and the company’s scripted chief says he “absolutely” is looking for more.
Lars Blomgren, who is keynoting here at Conecta Fiction in Toledo, Spain, was initially appointed head of scripted across EMEA for Banijay in 2020, following its acquisition of his former employer, Endemol Shine Group.
Since then, his remit has expanded globally to now have oversight of 54 companies in 19 countries and similar expansion in the number of productions he is ultimately responsible for, growing from around 90 in the latter days of Endemol Shine to almost 140 today for Banijay. A quarter of the group’s revenue is now from the scripted part of the business.
Talking to TBI, it is clear Blomgren and Banijay’s push into scripted is not slowing down, however.
The company has been busy in the acquisition market this year so far, buying Romulus producer Grøenlandia Group in Italy in March and a month later picking up 30 Coins producer Pokeepsie Films. And it’s a theme that is set to come, with deals set to be revealed that are focused on extending Banijay’s scripted reach across Europe.
“I’ve always been fascinated by the strong connection on feature films with Spain, Mexico and Hollywood but that has never really been accomplished on the TV side. So this is the end game, to raise the bar and do more Spanish projects for the global Spanish audience but also outside the language area.”
Fresh from a financial restructuring that saw owner Stéphane Courbit take the company public earlier this year, Banijay now seems poised on another streak off growth following its $2bn for Endemol Shine closed just prior to the pandemic.
“We have owners who are ambitious, so if we find we have a gap in the market then of course we will look for other markets,” Blomgren says, pointing particularly to countries where streamers are finding local content has been working best.
“Streamers wanted to grow everywhere in the early days but now I see signs of change. In territories where subscription is driven by local content they will produce, but in territories where you get your subscriptions because of predominantly US content – let’s say the Nordics, perhaps – that’s not the case. That’s not the case with Spain or France, but Northern Europe in particular. We have to be very careful with these early signs and go for acquisitions where the market will grow.”
The strategy for Banijay and the companies it has acquired is simple, Blomgren adds: “They have the chance to reach out to the world and that is important. Some of these companies are almost, in a way, too good for their own territories – they need to able to expand outside their borders and work on bigger budgets, and they have some really ambitious projects in the works.”
While Europe is a major focus area for acquisitions, interest also extends to India, Blomgren says, where local audiences prefer local content over imports.
The company is working on shows including a remake of BBC drama The Night Manager for Disney+ Hotstar and there are more shows in the works, coming via Banijay’s venture with Deepak Dhar.
Despite the bullishness on expansion, growth trajectories look set to be tested in the coming months as inflation around the world and a declining appetite for streamer spending on content squeezes what had been soaring budgets.
In a far-reaching discussion with Omdia’s Maria Rua Aguete here at Conecta Fiction, Blomgren admitted that securing talent – but also crews – was increasingly a global issue that companies under his remit had to grapple with.
He pointed to the strategy of Apple TV+ of launching shows with A-list talent as an area that was expanding, while the issue of rights retention continues to be an issue of contention for IP-hungry Banijay, particularly when producing with equally IP-demanding streamers.
Blomgren said shows such as Caliphate highlighted how some rights could be shared – Netflix has first window but Banijay took second window – while the Swedish exec also predicted more big budget coproductions from European broadcasters.
“You have the Alliance and projects that are coproduced with the big European broadcasters, and we’ll see more of that. If they want to compete with the streamers, they need to compete on the same budgets as well.”