Ron Devillier and Brian Donegan, co-founders of Washington D.C.-based Devillier Donegan Enterprises, celebrated the Ides of March with a 100% controlling interest buyout of their own company from U.S. network ABC.
The distributors promise the switch from ABC/Disney will be seamless and, if anything, will mean decisions are made faster. According to Devillier, the new dde will be ‘more opportunistic, more nimble, and will move quicker.’ DDE and ABC will continue their partnership, however, with Disney distrib Buena Vista handling DDE internationally, and DDE carrying ABC News productions at home. DDE will retain its catalog.
Rumors of a pending sale have been swirling for a year, but Devillier says the timing of the buyout has nothing to do with the fact that abc and parent Disney have fallen on hard times. Says Devillier: ‘The opportunity was there. We had a willing seller in Disney, and we were definitely a willing buyer… [We have] benefited tremendously from its association with ABC and Disney, [but] the timing was right to regain control of our destiny.’ Says Donegan: ‘When we started talking about the future, we had a lot of people interested in talking to us. There were some discussions, some which went to an interesting depth, but as fate would have it, none of them were just right.’ In the end, what was right was not partnering with a larger corporation at all.
While DDE will continue to coproduce near the 20-hour per year mark, what could change is the content of those hours, with more fiction possibly in the offing. Says Donegan: ‘I think the real challenge in the business is to stick to what you know, but not to stand pat. You have to keep working to draw out new ideas from the production community, to try things with broadcast partners that might be a little risky or experimental.’
On the ground, DDE should undergo only minor changes, with most staff remaining in place. For them, there’s even an upside to the change in ownership – a staff equity plan, something that wasn’t possible under ABC/Disney.
DDE also announced its ‘Empires’ franchise will continue – with a 3 x 60-minute look at Japan between the 16th and 19th centuries in Japan: Memoirs of a Secret Empire.