Ever since quitting Endemol France last October with ambitions of creating his own multinational production house, few TV execs have turned Europe’s TV rumor mill faster than former CEO Stephane Courbit, whose successes included formats such as “Deal or No Deal.”
In March, he was tipped to be bidding for “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” owner 2waytraffic (Sony got that deal), then France’s Carrere Group, Telfrance and Be Aware.
But now Courbit’s roadmap appears clearer. He’s setting up a multiterritory production group based in Europe, Banijay Entertainment, with ambitions to expand worldwide. Banijay Entertainment is a wholly owned subsid of Banijay Holding, an investment company with E250 million ($337.5 million) in a first round of equity commitment.
Courbit owns 49% of Banijay Holding through his family holding company Financiere LOV, with the remaining 51% held in an equal split by France’s Arnault Group, the Agnelli family’s investment arm IFIL, and the De Agostini family via its private equity vehicle DeA Capital.
Banijay is positioning itself as the cutting-edge answer to two of TV’s dreams: broadcasters’ craving for watercooler hits, and producers’ need to cut costs for established networks and new media, especially DTT.
To run Banijay Entertainment, Courbit has tapped two heavyweights as co-CEOs: Guillaume de Verges, a former TF1 exec veep and Canal Plus Group CEO, and Michel Hodara, erstwhile CEO of America’s Cup organizer AC Management.
With the reality TV biz being hugely hit-driven, the chances of lightning striking are far greater if a company owns affiliates in all major TV markets to ensure a show the widest possible carriage.
Competitively priced shows are at a premium as broadcasters wrestle with plunging ad revs and challenges from the Internet and mobile TV.
Hodara calls Banijay a confederation of entrepreneurs creating networks for ideas and format exchange.
Adds de Verges, “Increasingly, to produce different shows with different production costs, producers need to be inside a group.”
Early this month, the company announced its acquisition of El Terrat, which produces latenight yakker “Buenafuente.” In France, it has bought Air Prods., owned by gameshow host Nagui Fam, and created startup company ALJ Production with Alexia Larouche-Joubert, formerly Endemol France’s director-cum-reality-TV presenter. ALJ has several reality shows in development.
Banijay Entertainment also has acquired Russian company Intelegencia, which will produce a latenight poker gameshow for a Russian broadcaster. There are discussions for further acquisitions in Germany, Benelux, the U.K., Spain and France, de Verges says.
In the midterm, Banijay aims to sign up production houses in the U.S., Italy, the Mideast and, further down the line, Asia, India and Latin America for a spread of 18 territories by 2011.
Banijay is looking at new-media companies, particularly in the U.S. and U.K. Its potential German affil has one foot in traditional media, another in new, Hodara says.
Banijay’s market bow will come at Mipcom, which kicks off in Cannes on Oct. 13.