It has been a busy week of news over the past seven days, from the streamlining of Sky Studios in the UK to the imminent exit of BBC Studios Production CEO Ralph Lee. But three seemingly disparate deals around the world reflect the opportunities that lie behind the recent headlines of job cuts and spending squeezes.
What links Prime Video’s pick-up of Viaplay dramas in the Nordics, Fremantle’s acquisition of Beach House Pictures in Singapore, and the unprecedented streaming tie-up between Netflix, Warner Bros. Discovery and Fox?
It all comes down to spotting an opportunity.
Disney, WBD & Fox make their play
For Disney, Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) and Fox, the rumoured and now very real prospect of three giants of the US media landscape joining forces on the streaming landscape could have huge repercussions.
Craving OTT profits, the trio will create a joint venture service that will house billions of dollars worth of sports rights, offering US subscribers the NFL and NBA as well as Major League Baseball, Formula 1, the FIFA World Cup and numerous college sports.
Details are fairly scant, with no name nor price, but the move is primarily an attempt to snag younger viewers who have eschewed pricey cable.
The play by the Hollywood giants is also surely an attempt to reposition themselves at the centre of the US media landscape and reflects a realisation that in some cases, working together to combine their clout (as much as regulators will allow it) can be an asset.
The potential is clear. And while Iger, Zaslav and Murdoch might have been forced into the move with market conditions as they are, it is telling that they are also now making the most of it.
Opportunities have also been grasped over in the Nordics, where Amazon’s Prime Video has acquired nine series originally destined for ailing streamer Viaplay.
The package includes season two of Monster Scripted’s Norwegian political thriller Furia and season four of Miso Films’ Danish crime drama Those Who Kill, as well as Swedish thriller Jana – Marked For Life from FLX, Wildsheep and Reaz.
Martin Backlund, MD of Prime Video Nordics, described the acquisitions as a “landmark deal”, which may or not be the case. It certainly was opportunistic, however.
Backlund also mentioned that the pick-ups “align with our long-term strategy to invest in Prime Video Nordics”, suggesting that other opportunistic acquisitions would be considered.
Certainly the streamer can’t afford to stand still: the deal with Amazon followed a similar move by Netflix late last year that saw the global streamer snagging Viaplay’s highly anticipated original commission Ronja, The Robbers Daughter.
Fremantle makes for the beach
And now let me whisk you across to Asia, where Canada’s Blue Ant Media has sold its stake in regional production powerhouse Beach House Pictures to Fremantle.
The Singapore-based group, which was founded in 2005 by Donovan Chan and Jocelyn Little, is a savvy operation with fingers in almost every pie across APAC and a broad array of shows being produced for all the major players.
Blue Ant had picked up its stake in 2017 when it bought RACAT Group from former Fox International Channel exec David Haslingden, since when Beach House has grown fast, mainly organically.
Its slate ranges from Netflix series Mind Your Manners and Ice Cold: Murder, Coffee and Jessica Wongso, to wildlife drama Otter Dynasty for Max/Discovery+ and raft of local format remakes such as Masterchef Singapore.
But it has also been doing its own M&A, buying a majority stake in Japanese producer Vesuvius Pictures two years ago and shifting into scripted fare through a deal for regional prodco Momo.
For Fremantle, with its €3bn revenue target needing to be hit by 2025, the acquisition seems to provide a hefty addition to its interests in APAC and a vehicle via which it can attack some huge markets that have, to date, been little touched by global conglomerates.
And as discussed, Beach House has been doing a spot of its own M&A over recent years and its appeal both geographically and within the APAC landscape is clear for Fremantle.
Sure, it’s not been revealed how much the RTL Group-owned firm paid for its majority stake, but the opportunity that Beach House offers to a format-heavy firm such as Fremantle is clear.
Jennifer Mullin, Fremantle CEO, said as much in her comments on the deal, describing Asia as “a dynamic market and one we have targeted for strategic growth” while regional chief Ganesh Rajaram pointed to “great synergies”.
And while the trio of deals above might not immediately play into your own operations, the broader picture is clear.
There has, of course, been the obligatory job cut story of the week – thanks Bell Canada Enterprises – but there have also been slates that highlight opportunities among the ongoing squeeze.
Apple TV+ has also been busy, with ITV Studios-owned companies bagging a trio of series from its 2024 offerings, including big budget Franklin.
Clearly, many parts of the market are being buffeted by forces that none of us can control. But there is also activity afoot. And as the deals above highlight, when opportunity knocks, if you don’t answer it, someone else will.