Discovery, Liberty Global to buy All3Media in $930 million deal

Discovery Communications and Virgin Media-owner Liberty Global have confirmed they are set to acquire UK production and distribution superindie All3Media in a £550 million deal. (Pictured: All3Media series The Only Way Is Essex)
May 8, 2014

Discovery Communications and Virgin Media-owner Liberty Global have bought UK production and distribution superindie All3Media in a deal with an enterprise value of £550 million (or approximately US$930 million).

Discovery and Liberty Global will acquire the superindie through a 50-50 joint venture. The companies confirmed the agreement following reports emanating from the UK, beginning with Sky News, which broke the story earlier today.

All3Media – whose group of 15 prodcos are behind such unscripted and factual entertainment hits as the Studio Lambert-produced Gogglebox, the Lime Pictures-produced The Only Way is Essex and scripted series such as Midsomer Murders - was sold by its owner, private equity group Permira, to Discovery and Liberty, who will become joint owners of the company. Permira has owned All3Media since 2006, and had previously put it up for sale in 2011.

According to a joint release confirming the news, Discovery Communications and Liberty Global will “preserve All3Media’s creative independence and focus on serving its global broadcasting partners. The All3Media group will continue to operate under its own name with its own executive management team, and its existing creative operating model as a standalone, independently managed entity.”

Earlier this year, Discovery was believed to be teaming up with UK pay-TV network BSkyB to acquire the UK’s Channel 5, but U.S. media giant Viacom bought the broadcaster in a £450 million (or US$757 million) deal last week.

Discovery most recently finalized a deal to acquire UK indie Raw TV.

David Zaslav, president and CEO of Discovery Communications, said in a statement that “this partnership is yet another way for us to work with the best storytellers in the business… This venture allows us to work closely with Liberty Global, a valued partner and the largest international cable company, in managing a financially strong, innovative and creatively prolific production company. We are very excited to support All3Media’s talented management team as they continue their steady growth around the world.”

“We’re excited to be partnering with Discovery on this transaction. In view of the increased competition for great content and non-linear rights, All3Media represents a smart strategic investment for us over the long-term,” added Mike Fries, CEO of Liberty Global. “Just as importantly, we expect All3Media to provide very attractive financial returns given its growth potential and our proposed financing structure. This is just the first step in our mission to own and develop content assets that support our core distribution platform across Europe.”

“Our new strategic investors support our commercial ambition and value our creative independence,” said Farah Ramzan Golant, CEO of All3Media. “Through their new joint venture, they provide us with world class experience and resources to start the next chapter of our story.” Meanwhile, All3Media chairman and co-founder Steve Morrison, commented on the new owners’ ability to “appreciate All3Media’s distinctive philosophy of creative freedom and diversity.

“This new partnership will enable All3Media to expand further through multiple avenues of growth around the world, including in the U.S. market, which has been a driver for our business for the past several years,” he added.

Word of the deal, which is expected to close in the third quarter pending regulatory approval, follows an announcement yesterday that another broadcast company on the acquisitions path, ITV, purchased Pawn Stars producer Leftfield Entertainment for US$360 million.

(With files from Barry Walsh)

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