Endemol is getting into the event miniseries business, buying a minority stake in producer Tony To’s newly formed Ensemble Entertainment banner.
To is known as a producer and director of large-scale spectacles including “The Pacific,” “Band of Brothers” and “From the Earth to the Moon.” His partners in the L.A.-based Ensemble banner include Patrick Murray, a business exec who previously worked at HBO and Imax, and Jin Ishimoto, who focuses on creative development.
Endemol will help fund Ensemble’s TV development and production of series and longform projects, and it will retain distribution rights to Ensemble projects throughout the U.S. Endemol will also look to develop properties tied to Ensemble productions for Internet- and mobile-based platforms.
Financial terms of the pact were not disclosed.
To noted that the landscape for independent TV producers has changed in the past few years, as networks are more open to producers who come to the table with their own financing and distribution in place.
“The industry is changing. It’s a good time for a company like Endemol to make a play for us,” To said. “The TV business is expanding but viewership is being fractured and everybody’s trying to figure out the economics of making high-end shows.”
Endemol in the past few years has tried to leverage its heft in the worldwide unscripted TV market to expand into scripted programming with self-starting producers like To.
Ensemble will focus on projects with strong international sales appeal, as has become the norm for made-fors as producers increasingly cobble together financing from multiple foreign broadcasters and production entities. Costume dramas and historical sagas (think Showtime’s “The Borgias,” Starz’s “Camelot” and “Pillars of the Earth,” Sony TV/Scott Free’s “Pompeii”) are so prevalent on the made-for front these days because those kinds of stories tend to travel well.
“Our partnership with Endemol represents a key strategic alliance for Ensemble.”
Tom Toumazis, chief commercial officer for London-based Endemol Group, called the deal “another significant step in our ongoing strategy for growth in scripted programming.”
To has been working through the Ensemble banner for the past year but the talks with Endemol for financing and distrib partnership first began in the spring, around the time “The Pacific” bowed on HBO.
Ensemble has a handful of projects in the hopper, including a political thriller drama series at Starz, and a series with DreamWorks TV revolving around the oil biz that is set up at HBO.