Israel’s Tadmor Entertainment has renewed its first-look production pact with MGM Television. The Tel Aviv-based company has rebranded itself as Sipur and has recruited a clutch of new investors and advisors including former CBS Entertainment chief Nancy Tellem.
The company aims to expand the scope of its production and distribution activities with the capital influx from such investors as Israel banking giant HaPoalim and insurance and pension fund firm Clal Insurance. The goal is to take advantage of Israel’s booming media sector to produce high-end original scripted and documentary projects as well as to tap into the demand for formats and finished episodes from traditional TV buyers who have seen the pipeline of content from the U.S. majors shrink in recent years.
Tadmor Entertainment’s transition is being steered by CEO Emilio Schenker, a writer-producer who joined the company in 2019. Tadmor was founded four years earlier by its namesake, prominent oil and gas entrepreneur Gideon Tadmor. The new moniker, Sipur, translates to “story” in Hebrew, according to Schenker.
“We have such powerful investors in this company,” Schenker told Variety. “We are the right company at the right time with the right focus.”
Schenker said the relationship with MGM in recent years has been fruitful. At present the two are partnered on the docu series “The Devil’s Confession: The Lost Eichmann Tapes” that has made headlines in Israel and around the world in recent weeks.
“Sipur has been a great collaborator with MGM, and we’ve only just scratched the surface of what’s still to come and create with Gideon, Emilio and their impressive team,” said MGM TV chief Mark Burnett. “Today marks an exciting next phase for their company and our partnership, and together, we look forward to sharing many more compelling stories for audiences around the world.”
Schenker acknowledged that even with strong global demand, the content business is becoming more complex for independent players. Streaming services want stringent long-term exclusivity and full ownership of shows, which prevents independents from making after-market sales to drive profits. Schenker emphasized that Sipur will benefit from the overall lower cost of content production in Israel.
“The old models of co-productions still work. I can do a deal with a U.K. or France partner and still have rights for the rest of the world,” he said. “We can’t fight the changes. We’re just working on going with the flow.”
The MGM pact also gives Sipur flexibility to work with other distributors on projects that aren’t a fit for the Lion. MGM is in a period of transition following its sale earlier this year to Amazon. Schenker said the signals from the company as the deal extension closed was that it’s business as usual, for now.
Sipur has a reality dating show, “Hungry for Love,” co-produced with L.A.-based Stampede Ventures that is set to bow later this summer on Israel’s Hot Entertainment Channel. Sipur has high hopes for the property on the global market after the Israeli premiere. All told, Sipur at present has 13 full-time employees and about 40 projects in various stages of development or production.
“With the support of prominent Israeli investors, Sipur is well on the way to competing effectively on the world stage with premium IP from an outstanding array of creative talent and providing Israel-sourced content,” Tadmor said in a statement.
Tellem first got to know Schenker through her involvement with Israeli digital media company Eko. She was impressed by Tadmor Entertainment’s track record and Schenker’s approach to content development. She is guiding the company on expanding its scope.
“There are so many interesting writers working in Israel and the great thing is they don’t have preconceived ideas of what a studio and network would accept,” Tellem told Variety. “There is such creativity to the storytelling, from scripted to unscripted.”
Also on Sipur’s advisory board is Gersh Agency partner Jay Cohen. Sipur’s other newly recruited equity backers include investment firm IBI and prominent telecommunications executive Stella Handler.
“We think it’s important to reveal the identity of our investors,” Schenker said. “It’s the first time a lot of them have invested in entertainment. It’s a sign of where we can get to eventually.”
The pact between Sipur and MGM was negotiated by Brian Edwards, MGM’s president of television operations, and attorney Jeff Freid of Longarzo Vance Klevan Freid for Sipur.
(Pictured: Gideon Tadmor and Emilio Schenker)