German investment and co-production outfit Night Train Media has fully acquired Swedish distributor Eccho Rights, buying Korean media group CJ ENM’s majority stake in the business in the process, Variety can reveal.
The Stockholm-headquartered Eccho Rights is best known for a rich catalogue of Turkish content — which travels extremely well internationally — as well as Scandinavian, Western European and Korean programs. CJ ENM bought a majority stake in the company in December 2018 as part of a drive to expand in Europe, but has now fully sold that stake into Night Train Media.
The deal for Eccho comes almost exactly a year after Night Train Media, which is backed by private equity company Serafin Group, bought a majority stake in Paul Heaney’s London-based distribution outfit BossaNova. It also comes amid a period of significant consolidation within global TV distribution, which recently saw Blue Ant Media take 100% ownership of U.K.-based distributor Drive Media Rights, and Abacus Media Rights owner Amcomri buy U.K.-Australian factual distributor Flame Media’s program assets for $2.4 million.
Eccho Rights will operate as an independent entity within the Night Train Media group, which was set up in early 2020. Eccho CEO Fredrik af Malmborg will continue to lead the company with a substantial shareholding in the business. Meanwhile, Herbert L. Kloiber, the former managing director of Tele München Group and CEO of Night Train Media, will serve as chairman of the Eccho Rights board.
Outside of the pact, Night Train Media will continue to co-finance with third-party distributors. The company’s current production roster includes a documentary on Edvard Munch’s The Scream for Sky; the James Norton thriller “Rogue Agent,” which was previously called “Freegard”; and crime series “Snowblind,” which is an adaptation of the Ragnar Jónasson book.
Bringing Eccho Rights into the portfolio will broaden the company’s slate with Turkish, Scandinavian, South Korean and European drama, which will complement its focus on English-language productions. Eccho Rights’ roster of digital direct-to-consumer channels also provides growth opportunities throughout the wider Night Train Media network.
Kloiber said of the deal: “We are impressed by Eccho Rights’ growth, not only by its sales of popular drama series from across the globe, but also by its strategic vision. Eccho’s key business areas are complementary and synergetic with NTM’s. Combining our strengths could not come at a better time when even worldwide streamers are increasingly licensing content in selected territories. We are looking forward to supporting Eccho Rights in its growth plans and to closely working with this expert team.”
Af Malmborg added: “We share the same vision for the future of TV production and distribution, and having the support of NTM, Eccho Rights will strengthen its position as the go-to partner for creators looking to retain their independence in an ever-consolidated industry.”
Handan Özkubat will continue as director of Turkish drama and digital operations, as will Adam Barth, Eccho Rights’ director of co-production, development and acquisitions. Eccho Rights co-founder Nicola Söderlund will retire after 20 years in the Eccho/Sparks Network.
Eccho Rights was set up in 2012 after Belgium’s Ecchomedia bought a majority stake in Scandinavian formats alliance Sparks Network and merged the two businesses. The distributor has offices in Stockholm, Istanbul, London, Madrid and Seoul, with a team of 40 people globally. The company licenses around 17,000 hours of drama each year and has more than 10 million subscribers for its direct-to-consumer digital channels. The business mainly focuses on drama development from Turkey, Scandinavia, South Korea and Western Europe.
While Eccho Rights’ pact with CJ ENM was meant to drive more co-productions between Korea and Europe, it’s likely that CJ ENM’s strategic priorities shifted following its acquisition earlier this year of 80% of Endeavor Content’s scripted business.
(Pictured, L-R: Herbert L. Kloiber, Fredrik af Malmborg)