The roll up of the three production entities has been in the works for months. The new entity will be a 50-50 joint venture of Fox and Apollo, the companies said. The impetus to bring the Fox’s Shine and Apollo’s production banners under one roof reflects the wave of consolidation among unscripted production-distribution companies during the past few years.
The partners have tapped former BSkyB chief Sophie Turner Laing to lead the new venture. That means the CEOs of Shine (Alex Mahon) and Endemol (Just Spee) will exit, as will Shine founder and non-exec chairman Elisabeth Murdoch. Marc Graboff, head of Core Media Group, exited his post last month.
“This partnership advances our strategy of accelerating 21st Century Fox’s growth in worldwide television production,” said Chase Carey, 21st Century Fox president and chief operating officer. “The combination of these assets will create a leading global format business with a deep and diverse portfolio of products, enhanced distribution capabilities, and world-class creative talent. We are extremely grateful to Alex Mahon for her leadership of Shine and are delighted to partner with Apollo in supporting Sophie Turner Laing, and the talent at Shine, Endemol and Core, in our shared mission to form an unrivalled team to lead this truly global content creation business.”
The combined company is now home to such disparate shows as Shine’s “MasterChef” franchise (pictured), Endemol’s drama “Hell on Wheels” and syndie talker hosted by Steve Harvey and Core’s interests in “American Idol” and “So You Think You Can Dance.” In a timely example of the kind of reach that a hit unscripted franchise can achieve, Shine on Friday noted that it now has more than 50 global editions of the “MasterChef” cooking competition series, with the most recent deals landing in Colombia, Chile, Brazil and Argentina.
The partners said the new entity would at start have control of about 600 formats and operations in 30 countries. The deal is still awaiting regulatory approvals in key territories, but it cleared a big hurdle on Thursday when the European Union gave its blessing. The EU determined that the merger did not raise competitive red flags because the market share gains for Fox and Apollo were “incremental” and there are still plenty of indie players on the scene.
The size and scale offered by the merger of the three banners will allow for greater investment in multiplatform content, execs argued.
“It is a particularly opportune time to bring together three extraordinary companies, establishing one of the most innovative and diverse content creators in the world,” said Aaron Stone, senior partner at Apollo. “The group will have impressive capabilities to offer the creative community and to invest in all aspects of media’s future.”
The formal announcement of the merger comes just days before the international TV biz descends on Cannes next week for the annual Mipcom sales market.
“I am delighted to join the extraordinary collection of talent at Endemol, Shine and Core,” said Laing. “Content has never been more creatively vibrant and exciting and our exceptional production and distribution capabilities will be a magnet for talent to realize their creative ambitions across all platforms on a regional and global scale.”
Laing will be based in London. But other details about the venture, including its moniker, remain to be worked out. One of the biggest questions is how deeply the banners will be integrated, and what that means for Endemol, Shine and Core staffers, particularly those working in the largest outposts for each company, including L.A.-based Shine America and Endemol North America, and in London, where Shine and Endemol have big operations.
Carey and Laing were not available for comment beyond Friday’s press release.
Murdoch is expected to focus on entrepreneurial efforts such as her recent investment in the U.K. startup Locksmith Animation. She is not expected to have an executive role within her family’s corporate behemoth, at least not immediately. Murdoch founded Shine as an independent venture and sold it to Fox in 2011.
“It has been an immense pleasure and privilege to work with such extraordinary talent in a shared endeavor to create a unique and outstanding television company,” Murdoch said of Shine. “I will be eternally grateful to everyone at Shine Group for their dedication to the pursuit of excellence. I leave with lifetime friendships and admiration for a company I am proud to have been a part of. “