With ownership of TV programming rights a vital asset in the burgeoning demand for episodic programing across broadcast, pay-TV and subscription streaming, production company mergers have grown nearly 20% compound annual growth rate in the past five years – from 42 deals in 2013 to 102 deals in 2017, according to new data from IHS Markit.
Citing ongoing advertising pressure and audiences migrating to on-demand platforms, IHS says broadcasters are exploring new revenue sources from content production and distribution. With increased competition between traditional linear channels and online players, creating TV content is a stronger option than licensing from third parties.
The United Kingdom ranked the most active market in terms of number of mergers and acquisitions. However, in terms of deal value, the United States and China led.
“Both large and small companies are trying to find ways to internationalize, which is why Chinese companies have been gobbling up production studios in the United States, and the major Hollywood studios have been building local production networks in key foreign markets,” Tim Westcott, director of research and analysis for programing, said in a statement.
Increased investment in content by Netflix, Amazon and other content buyers has spearheaded M&A activity among content creators. Indeed, deals for scripted producers have grown nearly 30% — from 15 deals in 2013 to 54 in 2017. In comparison, acquisitions of unscripted producers have grown 8%, due to the shift of M&A activity to scripted producers.
The top mergers and acquisitions were led by ITV Studios and Fremantle Media, both of which have invested in a large number of start-up content-production companies. Of the 77 start-up companies launched between 2013 and 2017, 32 were drama specialists. Nearly half of these 32 drama specialists were launched in 2017, reflecting a significant surge in scripted drama investment.
Liberty Global invested in global producers All3Media, ITV and Lionsgate, while Vivendi took an interest in Banijay Group and 21st Century Fox acquired a 50% stake in Endemol Shine.
“These deals … highlight the strategic importance of owning content producers, for all those wanting to attract and retain viewers, subscribers and the revenue they deliver,” said senior research analyst Aled Evans. “The global producer networks offer these start-ups co-production finance mechanisms, worldwide contacts and funding. In return, the investor company gains rights for programming to sell internationally.”