Southern Star nabs Primetime TV distrib

Buy extends Oz's European reach

SYDNEY — Nearly tripling the size of its program catalog, major Aussie TV and film producer-distrib Southern Star has gobbled up large U.K. distrib TV Primetime in a A$10.3 million ($6 million) deal that cements the Oz group’s place in Europe and at last gives it a U.S. presence.

The move comes more than a year after Southern Star staged a $15 million takeover of U.K. entertainment group Circle Communications, and brings its program catalog total to more than 11,000 hours.

Founded in 1968, Primetime has offices in London and New York and annual revenues of about $30 million. It is said to be the U.K.’s largest indie TV distrib with a catalog of 7,000 hours from more than 200 international producers, including hit Aussie soap “Home and Away,” drama “A Country Practice” and rights to fare from departing Primetime shareholder TV Enterprise and Asset Management (TEAM).

Primetime managing director Simon Willock continues as managing director, while chairman Richard Price and chief exec Richard Leworthy become Southern Star consultants.

Bigger plans

“The acquisition of Primetime is Southern Star’s next step in becoming one of the major independent distributors of English-language programming and should place (it) in the top 10 distributors worldwide,” said Southern Star exec chairman Neil Balnaves, adding “Primetime is a large distributor, and we want to maintain that, but where sensible, we want to have some economies of scale.

“Following this acquisition, we are exploring ways of making Southern Star a series of boutique distributors to take it back to being a hands-on business,” Balnaves told Daily Variety. “We want to be big, to have clout when we need it, but still maintain specialty units to maximize sales for our producers and deal with them on a one-to-one basis to reinforce our reputation as a specialist distributor.”

According to its financial reports, Southern Star has another $6 million for its global shopping spree and Balnaves confirmed the company is still mulling two additional acquisitions.

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