Telepool Celebrates 50th Anniversary With Plans

Europe’s leading licensing companies celebrates milestone by extending digital reach

Telepool, one of Europe’s leading licensing companies, is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year but as the group looks toward the future it is embracing opportunities in international film and television, staking new ground while solidifying longtime partnerships and adapting to technological innovations as it revs up its growing digital distribution activities.

Founded in 1963, Telepool’s core business in German-speaking territories includes the acquisition and sales of theatrical, TV, video, video on demand and ancillary rights and merchandising; it also operates Global Screen, a world sales joint venture with Bavaria Film that has become one of Europe’s leading sales and acquisitions firms.

The company’s current shareholders include German regional pubcasters BR, SWR and MDR — all affiliates of national broadcasting giant ARD — as well as the Swiss Broadcasting Corp. Its vast library comprises programming from its shareholders as well as from independent international producers, ranging from theatrical blockbusters to hit TV series and documentaries.

Telepool holds German-language rights to such recent high-profile international films as “The Intouchables,” “Silver Linings Playbook,” “Olympus Has Fallen” and “Drive.”

In Germany, the company works with a number of local distrib partners, among them Berlin’s Senator Film, which saw huge box office returns with the French hit “Intouchables.”

Senator and Telepool jointly acquired “Intouchables” — which made a stratospheric $82.4 million in Germany — as an unfinished project, says Telepool CEO Thomas Weymar.

Senator likewise handled “Silver Linings Playbook” and “Safe Haven.”

Telepool’s wide-ranging catalog has resulted in multiple distribution deals.

“Since our portfolio contains programming across all genres, we work with many partners,” Weymar says. “This allows us to always choose the best partner for a certain project when it comes to releases on the bigscreen or video.”

Munich-based Universum Film, another close collaborator, handled Drive and will release Olympus Has Fallen on June 13.

While Telepool’s major activity remains theatrical and TV distribution in German-speaking territories, last year it launched Global Screen, a world sales joint venture with Bavaria Film that has become one of Europe’s largest international distribution outfits.

“As the growing revenues of both Global Screen and Telepool show, it’s worth it,” says Weymar, who is also looking to boost business in other areas. “We are aiming for the expansion of the home entertainment and video on demand divisions.”

The company has also beefed up its digital distribution operations through a number of commercial endeavors, including its Berlin subsidiary Mediapeers, a business-to-business outfit that operates a Web-based marketplace for international license traders.

“Mediapeers is becoming increasingly popular,” Weymar says. “It enables Telepool to administer its own content and to customize it either generally or for personalized purposes, such as screening rooms, flier, trailers, screeners, etc., and to license to professional clients, to deliver material and to invoice.”

He adds that Telepool sells non-exclusively to all major platforms in the German-speaking territories.

In addition, Telepool will have a stake in Germany’s Gold, a VOD service planned by pubcasters ARD and ZDF. The company has also inked licensing agreements abroad with players such as Netflix in the U.S.

While most operations are on the rise, the company has had to rein in activity in at least one area: film production. As ARD and ZDF seek to reduce film production in view of tightening budgets and decreasing demand for movies, Telepool has had to become more selective.

“The better project beats the good one. Convincing content will always find its home,” says Weymar.

Europool, one of Telepool’s main production subsidiaries, is ending its direct production activities all together by year’s end. “We have decided to step out of the direct production business in order to focus on acquisitions, coproduction and co-financing. Europool will give up active production by the end of 2013.”

However, Weymar adds that Telepool will continue to back film production in other ways, namely “as an executive producer and co-financier.”

ARD and ZDF’s move to reduce film production coin has irked Germany’s film industry, but Weymar remains optimistic, telling local producers and filmmakers that the company will jointly invest money in development and intensify the cooperation between producers and distributors.

KEY PLAYERS IN AT BIG TELEPOOL

Subsids give parent company dominant media footprint across the Continent

Who’s who
Current shareholders include German regional pubcasters BR, SWR and MDR — all affiliates of national broadcasting group ARD — as well as the Swiss Broadcasting Corp.

50
Number of years that Telepool has been in business. It has offices in Munich, Leipzig, Zurich and Los Angeles.

Principal focus
Core business in German-speaking territories includes the acquisition and sales of theatrical, TV, video, VOD and ancillary rights and merchandising.

Screen Time Across Different Platforms
Telepool’s Europool holds shares in production shingle Bavaria Pool; a 50-50 partnership with Bavaria Film; TV shingle Sperl Prods.; and operates Global Screen with Bavaria Film. Telepool holds German-lingo rights to “Drive.”

Cel block
Telepool’s film production activities are bundled in Europool, its media investment holding company.

TV tune-in
Europool controls 100% of TV production shingle Sperl Prods. after recently taking over the 51% share held by company founder and former topper Gabriela Sperl. The holding company has traditionally focused on large international co-productions and local TV movies.

Sell-off
Europool will be dialing back direct production activities. In April it sold its 51% stake in Moviepool to Munich-based, Catholic Church-owned group Tellux, which had held 49% in the production shingle; it will continue to be involved in projects as an exec producer and co-financier.

Digital Distribution Get a Boost
While Telepool only holds a minority stake in the Berlin-based Mediapeers, the B2B company has become a key player in the group’s growing digital distribution activities as well as serving license traders around the globe. “Three Quarter Moon” is one of the German titles available on the service.

Mediapeers operations
Mediapeers operates the Web-based Mediapeers Exchange programming marketplace, which significantly reduces the transaction costs and complexity of selling and buying licenses for content owners and industry buyers.

Tech Know-how
Bavariapool Services offers quality control, digital and content management, archiving and shipping to pubcaster giants ARD and ZDF, commercial broadcasters, studios, producers and other companies.

100k
titles are part of a film archive overseen by Bavariapool Services.

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