MGM has acquired a 55% stake in the production companies jointly owned by Mark Burnett, Roma Downey and Hearst Entertainment and has revived the United Artists banner to house the investment.
Burnett will serve as CEO of the newly formed United Artists Media Group. Downey will be president of LightWorkers Media, the faith and family unit.
The latest incarnation of the UA brand aims to produce TV shows, films and digital content for a wide range of global platforms. The partners also intend to launch an over the top channel aimed at the faith-based audience.
“I am extremely pleased to be partnering with Mark, Roma and (Hearst CEO) Steve (Swartz) in this incredible new venture that we believe will be accretive to MGM’s business,” said MGM chairman-CEO Gary Barber. “Mark and Roma are without a doubt the most successful and dominant players in unscripted television and faith-based content and we are excited to be distributing UAMG content worldwide. Together with Hearst Entertainment’s vast array of media assets and knowledge, MGM could not have wished for better partners to continue to grow the MGM business of creating premium content for distribution across multiple platforms.”
The deal for Burnett’s One Three Media and Downey’s LightWorkers Media includes all of Burnett’s interests in “Survivor,” “Shark Tank,” “The Voice” and the mini “The Bible,” among other shows. LightWorkers Media, which produced “The Bible,” is in production on the miniseries “The Dovekeepers,” set to air on CBS next year.
Burnett was already working with MGM as the producer of the feature remake of “Ben Hur,” to be helmed by Timur Bekmambetov.
“Roma and I are absolutely thrilled to be in business with Gary Barber and MGM while at the same time maintaining our amazing relationship with Steve and Hearst,” said Burnett. “Together we look forward to growing our television, film and digital business while also creating a whole new platform of entertainment.”
Regarding LightWorkers, Downey said: “When Mark and I created LightWorkers Media, our mission was to bring faith and family entertainment to a large audience and now this new endeavor will allow us even greater growth and success as the faith/family division of UA Media Group.”
One Three Media was formed in 2011 as a joint venture of Burnett and Hearst. With MGM coming in, the ownership breakdown of those assets is unclear. Hearst was believed to have just under a 50% stake in One Three. Swartz said the deal offered an opportunity “to expand our partnership with Gary and his team, as well as Mark and Roma, to create the next hit programming for a new audience of consumers.”
Brian Edwards, chief operating officer of One Three and LightWorkers, will segue to the same post at United Artists Media Group.
MGM’s move to bring Burnett and Downey into the fold is in keeping with the Lion’s increasing focus on television programming and international channels to drive the bottom line. Burnett and Downey get ready access to capital — although Hearst was already a financing partner — while MGM benefits from the pair’s relationships and momentum with a host of unscripted and scripted projects in various stages of production.
“Mark and Roma will continue to develop all UAMG projects, while we work closely with MGM’s distribution, marketing and other business groups, to achieve a seamless business structure,” Edwards said.
Plans for the faith-based digital channel appear to be in the nascent stages. The partners said the goal was to offer up a mix of original content, library film and TV titles, Christian music and musicvids, sermons from religious leaders around the world and portals for congregations across the country.
The United Artists moniker was most recently used for a film production venture that MGM had for a few years with Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner. That entity essentially folded in 2009 after underwhelming B.O. performance of a handful of releases.
Burnett and Downey could not immediately be reached for additional comment on the deal. The pair are working overseas on the production of “Bible” follow-up, “A.D.,” a miniseries slated to air next year on NBC.
(Pictured: Mark Burnett, Gary Barber, Roma Downey)