Group hopes to compete with big media firms

Elisabeth Murdoch is determined to grab a seat at the big kids’ table.

Murdoch announced this week the start of an international expansion push for her Shine Group with the launch of the company’s first outpost on the European mainland, Shine Germany, which will produce Teutonic TV fare. She aims to plant the company’s flag in a similar way in France, Italy, Spain, Scandinavia and Australasia.

The growth push is the strongest signal yet that Murdoch’s ambition is to make Shine a competitor with Europe’s largest media firms and Hollywood’s majors in producing local-language TV and possibly film fare.

She’s taking a cue from her global-minded father in making it a priority to build on-the-ground operations in the world’s richest media markets. And it would seem to reinforce what Elisabeth Murdoch-watchers have been saying ever since the shakeup at News Corp. caused by Peter Chernin‘s resignation as Rupert Murdoch’s No. 2: La Liz has no intention of giving up her independence at Shine to join News Corp. anytime soon.

In success, Elisabeth Murdoch’s expansionist vision will help ensure that Shine has a diversified revenue base not overly dependent on one territory. She took the first big step in that direction nearly two years ago in buying, at a $150 million pricetag that raised eyebrows, Ben Silverman‘s Los Angeles-based Reveille banner.

In unveiling Shine Germany a few days before the start of the Mip TV confab (March 30-April 3) in Cannes, Murdoch called the move “key to the next phase of our development.”

The news came a few days after Shine Group was anointed the U.K.’s second-largest indie production outfit, behind All3Media, in the annual survey conducted by Broadcast magazine. In the past year Shine has grown revenues by almost 50% — from £146 million ($211 million) to $312 million on the strength of well-traveled shows ranging from weight-loss competish “The Biggest Loser” to cooking contest “Master Chef” to gameshow “Moment of Truth.”

Shine Germany, which will have offices in Munich and Cologne, will be run by Axel Kuehn, former senior VP of programming for German channel RTL 2. Executive producer Holger Rettler will act as deputy CEO.

Kuehn and Rettler have previously worked with execs from Shine in setting up Shine- and Reveille-owned shows in the German market.

Murdoch said the company intends to pursue startup business opportunities and possible acquisitions in its target expansion markets. Comparing Rettler and Kuehn to the entrepreneurial execs who run the various Shine production banners, she praise the pair as “like-minded.”

“Our intention is to look for people who match our beliefs and culture to form new bases for the Shine Group internationally,” Murdoch said.

(Cynthia Littleton contributed to this report.)

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