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Southern secession

Oz prod'n house merges arms with Endemol

SYDNEY — Australia’s Southern Star is merging its light entertainment and infotainment activities into a joint venture company with Holland’s Endemol to be called Southern Star Endemol.

Southern Star will produce shows for the Antipodes using Endemol’s library of more than 300 formats, while Endemol will sell internationally all shows produced by the joint venture as well as Southern Star’s entire infotainment catalog.

With such shows as “Popstars,” Oz has long been a leading producer of infotainment and reality TV that’s currently taking the world by storm, most notably Endemol’s “Big Brother” format.

“We have been negotiating with Endemol for some time now and have great respect for the quality, diversity and creativity of their product,” said Southern Star executive chairman Neil Balnaves.

“With Endemol’s contribution of its formats, expertise and software applications, the joint venture will be a market leader. What also appeals is the opportunity to export Australian creative ideas in both light entertainment and infotainment programming through a major international company.”

Drop in indie demand

Like other Oz majors, Southern Star has been hard hit by the downturn in European demand for independent programming. It has all but mothballed its film activities, steeply written the value of its inventory and slashed staffing levels by 27%. Teaming with Endemol may give it more muscle in sales.

Southern Star has long been rumored to be a takeover target, with last year buzz centering on both Carlton and Endemol.

“We continue to talk to lots of different people about lots of different things,” finance director Ross McCreath told Daily Variety. “This deal is about diversifying to build up the light entertainment side of the business given the problems with selling dramas into Europe.”

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