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In today’s Global Bulletin, RTL Group buys out Disney’s share in Super RTL, Japanese streaming service Meecha prepares to launch later this month, CPH:DOX announces its 2021 Forum titles, Hairouna Film Festival and Soho House join forces for an entirely online 2021 edition, Manzar Studios picks up remake rights to two Spanish-language features and 800 French industry professionals call for cinemas to reopen.

BUYOUT

Pan-European media giant RTL Group’s largest business unit, Mediengruppe RTL Deutschland, has closed an agreement with The Walt Disney Company’s BVI Television Investments for complete ownership of German kids and family network Super RTL, buying out the House of Mouse’s 50% share and raising RTL’s shareholding to 100%. The transaction is now waiting for approval from the German and Austrian competition authorities.

According to RTL, the acquisition is part of the company’s larger growth plan for its RTL streaming platform TV Now and its strategy to consolidate its existing broadcast footprint in Europe. The deal is a further step down a path which has seen the company’s French broadcasting business M6 acquire kid’s network Gulli and five pay-TV channels from Lagardère and RTL Group pick up outstanding shareholdings in RTL Belgium’s TV and radio businesses.

Super RTL was originally founded in 1995 as a 50/50 venture between RTL Group and The Walt Disney Company, and has since developed into a digital entertainment company which distributes original content through linear channels, its TV Now streaming platform, digital radio and various other apps and websites. RTL also heads a merchandising business, which recently saw its French subsidiary M6 team with Chinese toy manufacturer and media company Alpha on the Mediawan-owned company’s first show for the four to eight-year-olds, “Petronix Defenders,” and its accompanying toy line.

STREAMING

Japanese education services company Benesse Corp. will this month launch Meecha, an SVOD service specializing in children’s programs. The new service will be presented as part of Benesse’s early childhood education service Kodomo Challenge that reaches 800,000 members. It can also be accessed publicly as a subscription service for JPY660 ($6) per month.

Meecha will stream content featuring Benesse’s popular preschool character Shimajiro, including a new 3D Shimajiro animation series. Content from other providers includes CBeebies favorites “Andy’s Dinosaur Adventures,” “Andy’s Prehistoric Adventures” and “Yakka Dee,” ABC Australia shows “Bobbie the Bear,” “Create” and “How To Do Stuff Good,” and “Tik Tak,” produced by VRT/Ketnet in Belgium and licensed by the U.K.’s Serious Lunch.

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Credit: Benesse Corp.

FESTIVALS

Denmark’s Copenhagen International Documentary Film Festival, or CPH:DOX, has unveiled the 35-title slate selected for participation at the 2021 edition of its CPH:FORUM, an international financing and co-production event for documentaries projects from around the world.

Among the titles selected to participate are Oscar-nominated filmmaker Lucy Walker’s “The Forest for the Trees,” two former Sundance winning directors in Mads Brügger with “Double Trouble” and Eugene Jarecki’s “The Elephant in the Room,” Berlin winner Geneviève Dulude-De Celles’ “Days” and Venice winner Lech Kowalski will bring “A Little Story About an Immeasurable Problem.”

As was the case in 2020, CPH:FORUM will be entirely digital this year, developed to fit into an increasingly online marketplace. Projects will each host individually curated pitches and set up with cherry-picked financing partners. Additionally, a new catch-up platform is being developed as a catalyst for follow-up meetings between potential partners.

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St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ Hairouna Film Festival (HFF) 2021 and Soho House are collaborating for the second edition of the upstart Caribbean event.

Out of necessity, this year’s normally itinerant festival, traveling to several Vincentian communities each year screening films from the Caribbean and Caribbean filmmakers working abroad, has gone entirely online with all screening and workshops made accessible to the public for free.

New contributions from Soho House this year include the establishment of Soho Beach House Canouan and the development of a Script House competition open to Vincentian filmmakers. The aim, according to Soho Film house, is to support the development of local Vincentian filmmaking talent by providing filmmakers with the tools and resources they need to realize their projects.

ACQUISITION

Manzar Studios has acquired the exclusive Indian remake rights of a pair of Argentine-Spanish hits – “At the End of the Tunnel,” directed by Rodrigo Grande, and “4×4” by Mariano Cohn – from Spain’s Latido Films.

Sunil Doshi, director at Manzar, said that the company would make the adaptations “culturally and contextually resonant.”

Manzar specializes in acquiring international high-concept IP for adaptation in India along with developing and producing original content. – Naman Ramachandran

CINEMAS

More than 800 leading professionals from the French cinema industry, including the likes of Jacques Audiard, Valérie Donzelli, Pierre Niney and Léa Seydoux, have co-signed an open letter to president Emmanuel Macron asking for cinemas to be reopened.

The French directors’ guild Société des Réalisateurs de Film (SRF) headed the collaborative call, which argues that the anti-COVID measures which closed France’s 2,046 cinemas in October are no longer necessary, and in fact don’t make sense, citing several scientific agencies which have stated cinemas and theaters pose no special risk for the spread of infection.