eOne CEO Darren Throop has much to be happy about. In January, the ambitious exec closed a deal for a majority stake in the Mark Gordon Company. In September, eOne acquired a 70% stake in Peppa Pig producer Astley Baker Davies worth $212 million. Most recently, the company was linked with making an enhanced investment in the latest incarnation in DreamWorks above eOne’s existing output deal in the UK and Benelux.
Unaudited half-year results for the Canadian film and TV mini-major showed TV production and sales revenues up 77% year-on-year to $124.1 million, with its Peppa Pig family and licensing unit bringing in $50 million and its majority-owned Mark Gordon Company bringing in $12 million. Overall, the TV operations of the group generated$213 million, up 46% year-on-year, and produced or acquired 442 new hours of programming. Less positive was lower revenue at eOne’s film unit, down primarily because of fewer pics produced and released than expected.
Throop found time today in between earnings calls to discuss those DreamWorks 3.0 rumors with Deadline, as well as the new relationship with Mark Gordon and the future of the company’s cash cow — or pig– Peppa.
On the DreamWorks rumors:
Darren Throop: We’ve had a relationship with Steven [Spielberg] and DreamWorks for three years now with an output deal in the UK and Benelux. Any opportunity we have to extend our relationship with Steven would be a good thing for eOne. I can’t comment on the speculation, but we have a good relationship with them. They’re obviously a very, very high-quality organization with unarguably one of the best creative minds in the world. To be partnered with those folks would be a great thing in the long term for a company like eOne.
On acquiring new companies and strategic expansion:
Throop: We have many legs to the stool. We’ve got a big, robust film business. It’s a slow year for film. We’re down 20% on the number of releases, so that’s going to have an impact on revenue, but looking forward we’ve putting together our strongest theatrical slate ever. The diversity of the group is what gives it the stability and strength. We’ve really been focusing on high-quality TV production and our family business as well. We did the Mark Gordon deal early this year. Very creative guy with a great track record, so that speaks to quality. We’ve been developing our own production business and also expanding through acquisitions last year for our unscripted business. We also have a strong international sales operation that represents our product, Mark’s product and also AMC’s product in the international marketplace. We’re really looking for strong, continued growth in TV production, the continued growth of the Peppa Pig franchise as well as other franchises such as Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom and PJ Masks, which launched on Disney in the U.S. in September to fantastic ratings.
On acquiring further direct distribution territories:
Throop: We are looking for continued theatrical expansion. We think we have a model that is unparalleled in the world. We can offer filmmakers access to consumers through all channels. We think another territory or two would round off our offering quite nicely. We’ve been consistent: We like Germany, we like France, we like Latin America, in some cases Southeast Asia is very strong from a growth standpoint. It could be all of those. We’ve been in the market for quite some time, and we’re careful with our acquisitions. It needs to fit in terms of 1) library, 2) multi-channel distribution infrastructure and relationships with all the platforms, and 3) there is strong management that fits with us culturally. As soon as we see something we like, we can transact quickly. We do have bandwidth realities we need to cognizant of.
On expanding in America:
Throop: We certainly want to expand in America from a production standpoint. The reality of the market is most high-quality scripted, high-quality TV and film product is coming out of America. The most valuable rights in the world continue to be in the English language. Where we have boots on the ground and relationships with both the creative community and the consumer platforms, we would look to build other businesses. The U.S. would be one of those places.
On production strategy:
Throop: If we could get to four to five films a year, that would be great. They’re difficult to put together, as you know. Xavier Marchand has got long arms, tremendous reach in the industry. Also Mark Gordon has a whole bunch of film projects in different stages, whether in final script or casting. Between Xavier and Mark, we could get half a dozen films a year and continue to feed the film distribution we have. We set out last year to double in size by 2020. I think we have in our hands the fuel and firepower to do that already. If we see something that’s big and chunky and very, very appealing, we would take a run at it. But we already have a solid business with tremendous reach that has the ability to double in the next four years.