European major Studiocanal is pushing deeper into television production, forming partnerships with three European indies. It has acquired minority stakes in the UK’s SunnyMarch, co-founded by Benedict Cumberbatch; Urban Myth Films, also based in the UK; and Spain’s Bambu. The move is part of a drive to grow TV revenues from 15% in 2015 to 25% of the overall going forward. Each deal includes a distribution agreement.
Careful to note Studiocanal wants to be “strong in Europe” and “totally focused on Eruopean talent,” Chairman and CEO Didier Lupfer added the company wants to be “an alternative to the U.S. studios.” U.S. asset acquisitions, however, are not eyed. “We don’t want to buy a company in the U.S.; we want to have an alliance in the U.S. on a case-by-case basis.”
COO Romain Bessi noted that 80% of Studiocanal’s revenues come from outside France and that “Local content performs better in all European countries than American content. We’ll start with local series and grow internationally.”
SunnyMarch, of which Studiocanal will own 20%, was founded recently by Cumberbatch and is developing film project The War Magician. The shingle’s exec producer and Managing Director, Adam Ackland, said today that they are also working “with some big stakes on exciting projects” in the drama space. The company is “very writer-driven” and Cumberbatch, who sent a video message to a press conference here in Cannes, is “heavily involved in development,” Ackland added. He pointed to the quality of recent BBC smash, The Night Manager, as well as Cumberbatch’s own BBC project, The Hollow Crown, as the types of work they aspire to. Cumberbatch has been in bed with Studiocanal before on both The Imitation Game and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. In the video, he said, “It thrills me to think that a studio that has the film output of quality of Studiocanal wants to partner with us.”
Urban Myth Films, which will also be 20% owned by the French group, was founded in 2013 by Johnny Capps and Julian Murphy who previously launched Shine Drama in 2002. They are partnered with Howard Overman and together their credits include Merlin, Atlantis and Misfits. They will “stay true to what we want to make: big bold international shows; young-skewing and cutting-edge.” Studiocanal’s library of IP is also “very valuable in the new world” and could be a “springboard to big international series,” the partners said.
Lupfer noted that Studiocanal currently has over 100 projects in develoment across the seven production companies with which it has partnerships including Red Production Company, Tandem, Sam and Guilty Party.
As for Bambu Producciones, the Spanish company sold a 33% stake to Studiocanal. It was created in 2007 by Teresa Fernandez-Valdez and Ramon Campos. Its many credits include Gran Reserva, Gran Hotel, Velvet and The Refugees which it co-produced with BBC Worldwide. It recently partnered with Netflix on the streaming giant’s first Spanish original, an as-yet untitled 1920s set drama.
Fernandez-Valdez said the goal was to continue working in Spanish after audiences didn’t buy the Spain-set Refugees as a local drama. “We have the opportunity to experiment with different lines,” she said and hinted at possibly working with Netflix again, which would be on a case-by-case basis. The series deal with Netflix pre-dated today’s news.
Lupfer had his own comment about Netflix, which has created increased competition for the Canal Plus pay-TV operation. “Studiocanal does not have worldwide ambitions, Netflix does. Netflix wants to be strong on worldwide basis, not locally. That’s why it’s totally different.”