Red Arrow shoots across Channel and Pond
BERLIN — European media group ProSiebenSat.1 is increasingly looking across the Pond and beyond as it focuses on developing and producing TV content for the international market.The Munich-based broadcast and entertainment conglom has already made inroads. Its hit skein “Danni Lowinski” is the first German TV series to be adapted for the U.S. after CBS Studios bought remake rights. It has also inked deals with NBC and ABC for formats. Under ProSiebenSat.1 CEO Thomas Ebeling, last year ProSiebenSat.1 bundled its production and distribution divisions under one roof, Red Arrow Entertainment Group. The unit has extended its operations to the U.S. and the U.K., and in March, Red Arrow launched a Los Angeles outpost for its worldwide distrib, SevenOne Intl., headed by Caroline Kusser. Red Arrow aims to export more content to the U.S., increase English-language programming by acquiring content from third-party U.S. providers, and partner with local companies and broadcasters on co-productions and adaptations of SevenOne titles. SevenOne Intl. managing director Jens Richter says U.S. and U.K. TV markets almost never dub foreign content. “By substantially expanding our portfolio of English-language content, we will break through the language barrier,” he says. “Opening our Los Angeles office is the first important step toward achieving that goal.” With the sale of “Danni Lowinski” to CBS Studios, the company is already on its way. The CW pilot, about a former hairdresser turned socially conscious lawyer, stars Amanda Walsh. In Germany, “Danni Lowinski” premiered on the group’s Sat.1 channel last year and has outperformed the channel average by up to 64%, with ratings of 17.6 among the web’s key 14-49 demo. SevenOne Intl. scored another U.S. deal with the sale of Belgium hidden-camera comedy format “Benidorm Bastards” to NBC, which is being adapted as “Off Their Rockers” for host Betty White. Kinetic Content, run by Chris Coelen (“Secret Millionaire”), will produce the skein. Red Arrow Entertainment took a 51% stake in Santa Monica-based Kinetic last year. “Benidorm Bastards,” which follows senior citizens who play pranks on younger people, has sold to more than 20 territories, including France, Italy, Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, Scandinavia and South Korea. Meanwhile, just in time for Blighty’s April 29 royal wedding, SevenOne Intl. has co-produced Lifetime event movie “William and Kate,” to which it holds worldwide rights outside North America. Earlier this year, SevenOne Intl. also sold Dick de Rijk’s TV show “YouDeserve It” to ABC. ProSiebenSat.1 launched Red Arrow Entertainment in the U.K. this year to make strategic investments in Blighty production companies and to develop and package scripted properties of its own for the international market. It tapped writer-producer Simon Maxwell, who previously worked at Greenroom Entertainment, where he created and produced BBC comedies “Fresh” and “Off the Hook,” to head drama and comedy at the shingle. Maxwell exec produced the upcoming Paramount feature “Killing Bono,” starring Ben Barnes and Robert Sheehan, which he also co-wrote. In its first major U.K. acquisition, Red Arrow took a 51% stake in the Mob Film Co. in March. Mob, which has offices in London, Manchester and Los Angeles, is best known for TV adaptations of Terry Pratchett’s “Discworld” book series. The Red Arrow group also comprises local and international subsidiaries and joint ventures including Producers at Work, Magic Flight Film, Redseven Entertainment, Sultan Sushi Belgium, Sultan Sushi Netherlands and Snowman Prods., as well as a co-production partnership with Granada Media Australia and the Redseven Artists talent agency. The effort is paying off. ProSiebenSat.1 nearly doubled its net profit to $447 million last year and posted an 8.7% increase in full-year revenue to $4.3 billion. In addition to improved ad revenue and hit German programming on the domestic side, international sales also contributed to a 4.4% jump in revenue in the conglom’s diversification segment, which encompasses non-ad related businesses, to $533 million. This year ProSiebenSat.1 intends to sell some of its European channels, acquired as part of its buy up of SBS Broadcasting in 2007, to focus on its prosperous German biz and reduce debt. Late last week it unloaded its media assets in Belgium and the Netherlands, including five channels, to a consortium headed by Finnish conglom Sanoma Corp. and Dutch media mogul John de Mol’s Talpa Holding in a deal valued at $1.77 billion.