Executives Michael von Wurden, Rasmus Steentoft and Lars Fonss have extended their contracts with Snowman Productions, creators of Married At First Sight. Wurden is CEO of Snowman Productions Denmark, Steentoft is Chief Creative Officer and Fonss is Executive Director. They have each agreed new multi-years deals with the Red Arrow owned company. Based in Copenhagen, Snowman is a big format developer for Red Arrow. Married At First Sight has become an international hit, with local productions sold to over 25 countries, and sales of the Danish, UK, U.S. and Australian shows to over 130 countries. In the U.S., a fifth season has recently aired on A&E’s Lifetime; and in Australia, the latest season on Nine, in a new multi-night format featuring 10 couples, has beaten channel records. Snowman’s other recent formats include dating show Kiss Bang Love, which has sold to over 11 territories including the U.S. (FYI) and Germany (ProSieben).
Laurence Bowen’s Dancing Ledge Productions is developing an adaptation of Paradise Lost with Martin Freeman on board as an executive producer. Freeman has a development deal with the company and he and Bowen are out to writers and broadcasters in the UK and U.S. Bowen refers to the epic poem by John Milton as “a biblical Games Of Thrones” in which, says Freeman, “the devil gets all the best tunes.” This is early development and there is currently no timeline. UK-based Framestore is on board for VFX.
Australia’s No. 3 broadcaster, Ten Network, is facing an uncertain future after wealthy shareholders opted out of backing a financial restructuring. One of the investors is Illyria Limited, a vehicle linked to Lachlan Murdoch, which owns 7.7% of Ten. Birketu Limited, owned by Oz media mogul Bruce Gordon, is the other entity which refused to back a refinancing and holds 15%. Ten then requested trading be halted for two days, saying the board “is considering the position of the Company in light of the position being taken by Illyria and Birketu and the range of restructuring and refinancing initiatives it has underway. Pending these determinations over the coming days, Ten considers that its shares will not be able to trade on an informed basis.” Ten has a A$200M credit facility due to expire on December 23, which is guaranteed by Murdoch, Gordon and casino mogul James Packer who is understood to have been shopping his 7.7% stake, according to Australia’s ABC. Per The Financial Times, analysts say the company could be placed in voluntary administration unless it can find new financial backers. Its best known shows are Big Bash cricket and MasterChef.
Chinese investment banking group China International Capital Co has led a $73M series B round of financing for XG Entertainment, a Shanghai-based TV and online drama producer. Per China Money Network, the company will use the funds to amp up its content production. XG is partnered with China Reading, an online literature service backed by Tencent and Wanda Pictures, to produce Quanzhifashi, an animated drama based on an e-book. The audience for Chinese online dramas was up 10% in 2016 and is expected to reach 690M by 2018. XG was founded in 2015 by Yang Wenhong, former vice president of Shanghai Media Group.