MIPTV ’19: Banijay seeks steady growth, remains mum on Endemol talks

CANNES — Top execs from the Paris-based production and distributor Banijay Group were on hand Monday (April 8) for a keynote at MIPTV’s Country of Honor program, singling out France ...
April 9, 2019

CANNES — Top execs from the Paris-based production and distributor Banijay Group were on hand Monday (April 8) for a keynote at MIPTV’s Country of Honor program, singling out France and celebrating the French TV industry.

Chairman Stéphane Courbit, CEO Marco Bassetti (pictured) and Banijay France CEO François de Brugada were present, with Bassetti taking on most of the talking duties for the company as a whole.

He acknowledged the changing face of the industry with the coming of SVODs and singled out retention of IP as a key concern worth monitoring to keep profits flowing.

Bassetti suggested that growth is necessary in the current market, as media companies expand and new players crowd the field. “If scale means there is more bureaucracy and less autonomy, that’s not good,” Bassetti said, and he has no plans to just buy up businesses for the sake of growth. But scale is very much a part of Banijay’s future.

“Today, to have scale is important. The more you have scale, the more you can leverage. To have scale will also attract talent,” he said. “To be a medium-sized company can be difficult.”

The elephant in the room was the ongoing speculation that Banijay is in talks to acquire global producer/distributor Endemol Shine Group (ESG). Despite the panel’s talk of expansion and acquisitions, the three execs declined to comment on the rumors.

Various reports place Banijay Group as the lead contender in the race to purchase the company behind Big Brother and Black Mirror, worth an estimated US$3 billion, according to some analysts.

Among the factors placing Banijay as a potential front-runner in the bid process: Bassetti has deep ties with Endemol, having served as COO, group president, and interim CEO, as well as founding executive of Endemol Italy prior to coming to Banijay in 2013. His brother, Paolo Bassetti, was appointed to the CEO position for Banijay’s Italian division, following his run as Endemol Shine Italy’s CEO and chairman, and as a member of ESG’s international board. And importantly, Banijay Group founder and chairman Courbit also served as president of Endemol France, following Endemol’s acquisition of his Arthur Stéphane Productions in the late 1990s.

Perhaps more of an indicator, however, is the number of major, expensive acquisitions over the course of Banijay’s 10-year history. In 2017, for instance, Banijay Group dug deep into its pockets once more for the acquisition of Castaway Television Productions, creator of global format phenomenon Survivor. The deal, which required Banijay Group to raise $416 million in capital funding that would also be used to refinance the existing debt from the Zodiak merger, placed Survivor in the Banijay Rights catalog, and the acquisition of Endemol Shine Group would land Big Brother —produced in 64 territories and seen in over 120 countries, but recently dropped by Channel 5 in the UK — in the Banijay portfolio, which would make it home to two of the world’s most iconic formats.

Bassetti did talk about Banijay’s latest format sale, announced in Cannes earlier that day. Don’t is produced by Deadpool actor Ryan Reynolds and was just picked up by ABC in the U.S.

“It’s a physical and mental game show with a family of four. The show is called Don’t. And it means don’t slip. Don’t cry. Don’t laugh. Don’t speak,” said Bassetti.

“It’s going to be a big show.”

(With files from Barry Walsh)

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