Another U.S. TV indie producer has been absorbed by an aggressive global player. British media conglom Pearson last week completed the acquisition of the Los Angeles-based producer and distributor ACI for more than $40 million.
With the buyout of ACI, which turns out a highly exportable American TV product, Pearson adds to its growing list of international production and distribution outlets.
The key to the deal for the 6-year-old telepic and miniseries entity, which had been anticipated for months, involved the eight producers who own shares in ACI signing a long-term extension of their pacts. They will continue to exclusively supply TV movies to ACI for international distribution.
ACI president Jamie Bennett and his management team also will remain in place, with no staff cuts at the 30-person company anticipated. In fact, Bennett says he expects ACI to grow under its new owner.
In 1992, Pearson grabbed Thames Television, one of the largest producers of TV shows in the U.K. And several months ago, it swallowed Grundy Worldwide, the international soap and gameshow specialist.
Pearson also owns a substantial interest in the U.K.’s Channel 5 and smaller stakes in other Euro and Asian broadcast and satellite services.
Bennett declined to comment on a report that Thames, Grundy and ACI likely will be grouped under a single distribution banner with a new name. The umbrella group is expected to be up and running by next April’s Mip TV confab, with a new distribution topper coming aboard shortly.
Longform production will continue to represent ACI’s core business, according to Bennett. The company has a library of more than 150 telepics and miniseries, with 20 titles in production or already completed for the 1995-96 season.
ACI’s producers turn out nearly 20% of the TV movies purchased each year by the three U.S. networks.
For the 12-month period ending Sept. 30, ACI generated $31 million in sales, a 21% increase over the previous year.
Pearson’s total payments to shareholders, producers and key execs of ACI should top $40 million based on estimates of the company’s future performance.
The eight ACI producer shareholders are ACI chairman Leonard Hill, Steve Tisch, Jon Avnet, Robert Greenwald, Michael Jaffe, Frank Konigsberg, Steve White and Spectacor Films.
Another founding member, von Zerneck/Sertner Films, still has an interest in ACI but inked a deal in June with Hallmark Entertainment. Avnet/Kerner has a series pact at Disney.
Bennett says ACI has been pursued by a number of domestic and international companies because of its “nice market shares.”
ACI also has been seeking to become a player in the domestic syndication arena. Its international firstrun hour series “High Tide” is in its second year, and the company has been pitching a potential entertainment-oriented talk strip for next season called “Scoop” with Los Angeles TV personalities Sam Rubin and Dorothy Lucey.
While network series production also is in ACI’s future, Bennett says no projects are currently being prepped.