Kreiz eyes prize, weighs risky buys

New Endemol topper isn't tipping his hand

Will Ynon Kreiz, the new head of global entertainment powerhouse Endemol, end up with a stake in U.K. terrestrial broadcaster ITV? Launch the next “Desperate Housewives”? Or even merge the company with archrival FremantleMedia?

For Kreiz, a one-time windsurfing instructor who took over at Endemol in May, the sky’s the limit as he seeks to mastermind a growth strategy in exacting circumstances.

“Ynon is a man who likes taking risks,” opines an industry insider. “And so far, all the indications are that he intends to develop Endemol along quite different lines to the days when its stock-in-trade was low-risk reality and gameshow formats.”

Two of Kreiz’s key appointments speak volumes of the new direction the former Fox Kids Europe topper wants to take Endemol.

In August, Kreiz poached one of Disney’s most senior European executives, Tom Toumazis, to spearhead a fresh emphasis on distribution, including third-party activity, in the newly created role of chief commercial officer.

This, plus indications from Endemol that in the future it wants to devote more energy to scripted shows, rather than focus entirely on fare like “Big Brother” and “Deal or No Deal,” suggest the lines along which Kreiz is thinking.

Toumazis was the man who brought “Desperate Housewives” and “Lost” to Europe, negotiating record prices from broadcasters, so watch this space.

“We have a very successful global drama business,” says an Endemol spokesman, “but there are opportunities for growth.”

Kreiz’s other big hire is Adam Valkin, recruited as global head of digital media with a mandate to build and acquire new digital businesses.

“Digital media is core to Endemol’s business and an area where we see very significant opportunities for growth,” Kreiz has said. But given the ambitions and demands of Endemol’s owners — Mediaset, the company’s original founder John de Mol and Goldman Sachs — Kreiz will be expected to pull at least one rabbit out of the hat.

Speculation has been rife that Endemol might be interested in acquiring ITV, the battling U.K. broadcaster whose stock price has plummeted in recent months.

But given the state of global financial markets it is hard to see how Endemol could raise the necessary coin. One possibility: Company might make a joint bid with another party or perhaps attempt to buy BSkyB’s stake in ITV, which U.K. regulators have said must be reduced.

“Ynon is definitely interested in ITV,” reckons an industry veteran. “If ITV was ever broken up its production business is something that might appeal to Endemol.”

However, common wisdom dictates that Kreiz not lose sight of Endemol’s core activity — ensuring that his creative teams come up with new hits.

There is little doubt that some of the fizz has evaporated from “Big Brother.” Australia’s Ten network jettisoned the show midway through its run last summer, while in Blighty ratings for the eviction program have dipped.

“For more than a decade now Endemol has been a pioneer of creativity,” Kreiz likes to say. Certainly this is true. The company’s catalogue boosts rights to more than 2,000 unscripted and 200 scripted formats, including some of the most successful entertainment shows of recent times.

But Fremantle shows like “The X Factor” and “The Apprentice” are hotter than “Big Brother” or “Deal or No Deal.”

However, Kreiz, a fitness fanatic and non-meat eater who once served in the Israeli army, is certain to give Endemol his all.

As Haim Saban, who hired him to run Fox Kids Europe, says: “Ynon is a very fast learner, a relentless hard-working person who never took no for an answer… Endemol is lucky to have him.”