Red Arrow Entertainment Group has bought a majority stake in Denver-based Orion Entertainment, marking the latest deal in the global wave of consolidation among independent unscripted production companies.
Financial details of the sale were not disclosed. A source familiar with the situation said it was on the high end of recent sales of companies of similar size, putting it at $50 million or more, depending how Orion performs in the next few years. Red Arrow, part of Germany’s ProSieben Sat.1 Media, has an option to buy the remainder of the firm from founder Chris Dorsey over time.
Dorsey’s Orion Entertainment (unaffiliated with the 1980s movie company of same name) will continue to be based in Denver and run as an autonomous banner within the Red Arrow umbrella. The German TV heavyweight has vastly expanded its reach in the U.S. during the past few years with the acquisitions of production companies including Kinetic Content, Fabrik Entertainment, Left/Right Productions and Half Yard Productions.
Orion has a low profile in Hollywood but has turned out more than 1,000 hours of programming during its 15-year history to date. At present Orion has 20 series airing across six networks, notably HGTV’s “Tiny House Big Living” and “Living Big Sky” and DIY’s “Building Alaska” and “Treehouse Guys.” The company was pursued by more than one buyer at a time when small producers with the ability to generate volume are in high demand.
“We love making television,” Dorsey told Variety. “We feel like there’s a lot of opportunity out there. We’ve seen extraordinary growth during the past few years. Red Arrow has great assets and a terrific leadership team that will help us broaden the scope and reach of our product.”
Orion will change its name to Dorsey Pictures after the sale. Chris Dorsey runs the company with his wife, Amy Dorsey and partner Larry Sletten. Orion has about 130 full-time employees. He feels the Denver location is an asset in attracting employees for the long-term.
“It’s amazing how many people who live in New York and L.A. want to get out of New York and L.A.,” Dorsey said. “There’s a great talent pool in Denver. It’s become a much more substantial TV production center than most people know.”
With the capital from Red Arrow, Dorsey is focused on expanding his activity in branded entertainment. The company has in the past produced sponsor-funded programming for Chrysler, Ford Motor Co. and Swarovski. Orion already established an office in Detroit to help build its ties to automakers.
Blue-chip sponsors nowadays “want content not just commercials,” Dorsey said. “It’s a good time to be in television production.”
Jan Frouman, CEO of Red Arrow Entertainment Group, cited Dorsey’s work with brands as a big factor in Red Arrow’s pursuit of Orion.
“They are not only uniquely positioned to deliver access to a vibrant target audience, but will also provide us with essential branded entertainment know-how,” Frouman said. “Through this we enter into a new business area.”
Orion was advised by Richard Gray of About Corporate Finance and attorney Matthew Thompson at Sidley Austin. Red Arrow was advised by Stella Capital Advisors and Milbank.