Book publisher moves to small screen

De Agostini seeks to reshape Euro TV landscape

ROME Italy’s De Agostini, with its core biz in book publishing, is looking to reshape the landscape of Euro TV production.

The multinational outfit, which is the world’s 10th-largest publisher, recently finalized its purchase of Scandinavian TV production company Zodiak, a European powerhouse with interests in Asia and Russia.

Zodiak follows De Agostini’s acquisitions of Gaul’s Marathon Group, maker of hit toon “Totally Spies,” and Italo production outfit Magnolia, which brings “Celebrity Survivor” to France, Italy and Spain. In tandem with Spain’s DeAPlaneta, De Agostini also owns Spain’s Antena 3 web.

The scope of De Agostini’s TV ambitions became clear last year when the group, which has $5 billion in revenues and $700 million in earnings, bid for Endemol as part of a consortium that included former Endemol France CEO Stephane Courbit.. Though the consortium lost out to Mediaset, De Agostini’s plans were not allayed.//

“As an alternate route, we have decided to build up internationally by aggregating a number of regional entities to create an international platform,” De Agostini managing director Paolo Ceretti says.

Zodiak, which brings outside formats such as “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” and “Wheel of Fortune” to a large swathe of Northern Europe, self-generates such hit local reality shows as “Undercover Lover,” and has expanded into India and Russia. Zodiak also has outposts in the U.K. and the U.S.

In terms of sheer size, De Agostini’s TV holdings earn more than E400 million ($564 million) in revenues, making it among the largest TV producers in Europe.

What’s missing at this stage, however, are real synergies among its various regional entities and a lineup of product that can travel, beyond “Totally Spies,” which airs in more than 100 countries.

“We are all trying to replicate Endemol’s global success with reality and gameshows,” Ceretti says.

He admits it will be difficult to create European serials and miniseries that can compete with Hollywood. “That can change as the industry becomes more consolidated in Europe, and bigger budgets become available,” he adds.

Ceretti certainly buys the conventional view that global demand for content will grow with the proliferation of digital platforms.

“It makes sense that with a proliferation of channels, content will increasingly be purchased, rather than produced inhouse.” That’s why the De Agostini chief dismisses speculation the group has any interests in expanding its broadcasting side beyond Antena 3.

“It’s safer and more interesting to become a global content provider rather than a broadcaster,” he says.

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