Schundler to head venture

LONDON — Swedish drama shingle Yellow Bird has swooped into the German-language market, setting up a joint venture in Munich with Oliver Schundler, who ankles as Bavaria Media TV topper to be managing director of the new outfit.

The company will focus on feature films and TV drama for German-speaking territories, which has long been a key market for Yellow Bird’s popular Wallander movies, based on Swedish author Henning Mankell’s best-selling detective novels.

“We already have well-established relationships with Germany’s biggest broadcasters and several of the authors that we have the rights to produce are very popular in the country,” said Mikael Wallen, managing director of Yellow Bird.

The venture marks the start of “a broad international expansion” strategy for the company, added Patrick Svensk, CEO and president of parent company Zodiak Television, which acquired Yellow Bird in February 2007.

“The Yellow Bird business is crucial to our strategy of building a strong rights catalog that we can capitalize on in all our territories,” he said.

Initial productions will be based on rights that Yellow Bird already controls, which include Mankell’s “Kurt Wallander Mysteries.”

“By tapping into the rights catalog that we have already built, we expect the German business to be profitable much quicker than what is normally the case for a drama start up,” added Wallen.

Yellow Bird has already produced 13 Wallander features for theatrical and DVD release, and recently secured finance to produce a further 13 films from Swedish pubcaster TV4, Film i Skane and Germany’s ARD/Degeto.

The company is also producing three English-language Wallander features with U.K. indie Left Bank Pictures for the BBC, with Kenneth Branagh playing the lead.

The new company marks the first move into Germany for Zodiak, which has built up a network of production outfits across Europe in recent years, and is itself the subject of a Euro 137 million ($213 million) takeover bid from Italian publisher De Agostini.

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