Sony Pictures acquires 2waytraffic

Dutch co. to offer studio gameshows, reality TV

Sony Pictures Entertainment has acquired Dutch TV production company 2waytraffic for $223.5 million as it looks to expand its reality television portfolio outside the U.S.

Shingle, which went up for sale in March, specializes in the “light entertainment market” that consists of gameshows, variety and reality programs.

Sony paid cash for the acquisition, and Netherlands-based 2waytraffic will be delisted from the London Stock Exchange.

In absorbing 2waytraffic, Sony will now have one of the strongest catalogs of gameshows in the world. In addition to “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy” — two of the most successful franchises in television history — Sony will add “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” which has many global incarnations.

“The acquisition of 2waytraffic is part of our strategy to expand global production and distribution of light entertainment content,” said SPE chairman-CEO Michael Lynton. “This opens the door to new content for us and brings to our business a solid distribution infrastructure, strengthening our position for an efficient rollout of formats internationally.”

For Sony, getting its shows out via different avenues of distribution was also a key to the deal, as 2waytraffic owns many programs that are not only broadcast but delivered via broadband and mobile as well.

CEO Kees Abrahams, who formed 2waytraffic in 2004 with Unico Glorie, Taco Ketelaar and investor Henk Keilman, will remain in charge of the company and will report to a board comprised of execs from 2waytraffic and Sony. Shingle now becomes a subsidiary of SPE.

The move gives Sony more of a TV presence in Europe, where some 8,000 hours of 2waytraffic programming airs annually in more than 40 territories. In 2006, 2waytraffic acquired U.K. shingle Celador Intl. and its catalog, which included “Millionaire,” “You Are What You Eat” and “Brainiest,” for $207 million.

Sony has been making moves to pick up reality formats for a while. Studio signed a deal with producer Michael Davies to develop programming and invested in Dutch company Tuvalu Media in December. Sony is also invested in Brit TV houses Shine and Googlebox, in addition to French shingle Starling, which coincidentally produces the Gallic version of “Millionaire.”

“Our extensive experience in local-language television production, combined with 2waytraffic’s interactive distribution experience, makes for a union of complementary strengths,” said Michael Grindon, president of Sony Pictures TV Intl.

Domestically, Sony Pictures TV gameshow “Power of 10” recently had a run on CBS. Hosted by Drew Carey, “Power” scored marginal ratings, and its future is undetermined.

Sony Pictures TV just cut a deal with Comedy Central to revive library entry “The Gong Show” (Daily Variety, May 9).