TBI London TV Screenings Interviews: Banijay COO Peter Langenberg on M&A and shifting streamer strategies

Human Playground

As Banijay opens its door to international buyers on Wednesday at London TV Screenings, Group COO Peter Langenberg discusses balancing genres, budgets and M&A activity amid the shifting strategies of streamers.

In a rapidly consolidating industry, Banijay’s appetite for M&A has arguably been greater than any of its rivals over the past three years.

Since swallowing Endemol Shine Group in 2020, the French group has retained its acquisitive streak, most recently picking up Australia’s Highway Through Hell and MythBusters firm, Beyond International.

Peter Langenberg

While not a deal on the scale of ESG, it nevertheless underlines how Banijay – now a publicly floated firm via FL Entertainment – is looking to play the market. “About 75% of our revenue is unscripted with 25% scripted and that balance now feels right,” Banijay’s COO Peter Langenberg tells TBI.

Streamer shifts

That’s not to say scripted companies haven’t been acquired – Romulus producer Grøenlandia Group and 30 Coins producer Pokeepsie Films were among numerous firms picked up last year – but Langenberg points to the current commissioning climate and points to the fact that drama is “heavier on the financing”.

“We see that the streamers are struggling and looking at consolidation,” he continues. “Some might merge to bring down costs and we’re seeing a lack of clarity on strategy.”

Among recent moves from US-based giants, it was perhaps HBO Max’s exit from swathes of Europe that caused the most furrowed brows to be raised.

Langenberg admits it was “a big thing for us” and says streamer strategies as a whole remain unclear. “You see markets where they are holding back on commissions, maybe not as much on the acquisitions but certainly on the originals, and they are tending to be very conservative as they try to get strategy in order.”

The Banijay veteran also points to senior exec changes and “vacancies in the chain of command” that further muddy the waters. “Ultimately it comes down to a show level, at which it is difficult to find out if and when they might commission or re-commission.”

Romulus

A “stabilising” of spend has occurred he adds, but there are other shifts such as Netflix discussing new price points, “which is different” from what came before, says Langenberg.

“And there is definitely more flexibility on rights when you talk to the streamers. They also understand that if they lower their price points they can’t ask us to work for hire. Our preferred position is to produce and keep rights of course and the streamers are more willing to discuss a return of rights, linear especially.”

Unscripted efficiencies

While high-cost scripted might be a tough sell at present, the returns from docs “are certainly good,” Langenberg says.

“They are at a price point of scripted and reality is also doing really well, those are areas we are investing in.” Recent launches have included Netflix’s Idris Elba-fronted Human Playground, from Netherlands-based Scenery and UK-based Workerbee.

And then there are the veterans of the format world and their ongoing sales, such as ITV’s rebooting of Big Brother and the BBC’s remake of Survivor, offering reduced risk to clients.

But shiny floor studio shows are also ticking up, Langenberg adds, pointing to Starstruck and Lego Masters as “strong performers” and perhaps still enjoying some of the co-viewing trends that emerged through the pandemic.

There is also increasing coordination between major markets, notably the US and the UK, as Stateside operators – both streamers and networks – look for cost-efficient productions.

Survivor

“[Clients] might see if they can produce in Europe, which happens now and again, and our US and UK teams work closely together. Ben Samek in the US and [UK chief] Patrick Holland are in constant touch to make sure we are aligned,” Langenberg says. It is also looking increasingly likely that opportunities from the US will grow as the impending writers’ strike shows little sign of abating.

Shouldering the burden

On the other side of the Atlantic, Holland has been handed a £50m fund to “supercharge growth” over the next three years, with a remit to spend it on up-and-coming businesses and bolster existing labels.

It’s a move that makes sense in the highly consolidated UK market and will be focused on scripted, reality, docs and fact ent genres. It will also sit in addition to Banijay’s existing M&A activity, which is also expanding its scope.

“We are looking at companies that shoulder with our content production businesses, so that could be gaming or focused on facilities in post or studio,” explains Langenberg, pointing to the 2022 launches of Banijay Studios Brasil and the deal for Austria-based influencer firm, Influence.Vision.

It reflects a theme across the group, with ambitions expanding. Banijay Rights, home to more than 150,000 hours of shows since the Beyond addition – has launched its own branded FAST channels and Langenberg describes the medium as a “growing business“ for the distribution arm.

Horizons, which offers shows such as Gunpowder and 8 Out Of 10 Cats, even touts a ‘Powered By Banijay’ strapline, an intriguing move for a company that has previously made few – if any – DTC moves.

And while expansive moves might be on the cards for Banijay’s existing business, Langenberg says 2023 will see increased acquisition activity across the sector as companies scale.

He declines to comment on recent reports linking his company’s holding firm, FL Entertainment, with a move for ITV Studios but streamer consolidation is likely, the COO says. Clearly, appetite for M&A across the industry is not sated yet.

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