MTV nabs Mastiff formats

Co. still faces heavy Scandi competition

AMSTERDAM — Sweden’s MTV Produktion acquisition of the Bonnier-owned Mastiff Media gives MTV a fresh edge in what is expected to be a key battle among format production and distribution players in the Nordic territories.

Bonnier, Scandinavia’s largest media group, will acquire a 36% stake in MTV, giving both desperately needed synergies. Mastiff is also based in Sweden, but both companies have offices in all three Scandi territories.

“We are two to three times as big as Mastiff, but while we are strong in Sweden and Norway, their biggest market is Denmark,” says MTV CEO Olle Langenius. Mastiff is also stronger internationally than MTV.

Torsten Larsson, managing director of Bonnier Entertainment, the film, TV, cinema and distribution side of Bonnier, says there are significant synergies in administration technical support to be had from the merger.

Langenius admits one of Mastiff’s biggest attractions is its edgy offerings of paranormal formats. MTV Intl. distributes Nordisk Film’s “Sensing Murder,” in which clairvoyants help track down murderers, to eight territories, and Langenius makes no bones about wanting more of such stuff.

Mastiff’s “Sixth Sense” on TV2 Danmark is still pulling auds of 50% or more even in its third season. It has just launched “Psychic Cafe” (known in Denmark as “The Oracles”) on TV2 Danmark’s spinoff channel TV Zulu, and it has a new format, “Witchcraft,” it is selling internationally.

Company will be headed by media vet Patrick Svensk, now a board director for MTV Produktion, but formerly CEO of Sky Ventures.

Even with the Mastiff acquisition, which is subject to approval by shareholders in a May 16 meeting, MTV has its work cut out if it wants to survive heavy competition.

Metronome, owned 65% by Norwegian media conglom Schibsted and 35% by Endemol, is the biggest TV production and distribution player in the territory; Modern Times Group’s hot format cruncher Strix is the second biggest; with the newly enlarged MTV next.

Metronome cranks out a whopping 4,300 hours a year, MTV more than 1,500, and Strix slightly better than 1,200. But both Metronome and Strix are profitable, while MTV has lost heavily in the last couple of years.

Langenius owns substantial shares of the company, but after 10 years as CEO, he’s ready to hand the mantle to someone else.

He and Brita Sohlberg, managing director of Mastiff, will steer the merger of the two companies until new CEO Svensk takes over in early August.

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