Execs at Desilu said Friday they had acquired a controlling stake in Vonetize, which provides streaming technology for major studios as well as distribution, security and monetization. News of the transaction sent Vonetize shares zooming up 83% on Sunday on the Tel Aviv stock exchange. Vonetize operates in more than 60 countries and has partnerships with Samsung, LG, Disney, Warner Bros., Fox, Sony, Universal and others.
Desilu said it had bought a 10% stake in cash from controlling shareholders at a company valuation of $50 million, receiving an option to buy 44% more over the next 12 months. Vonetize said Sunday that Desilu would explore a U.S. offering to finance the deal for the rest of its proposed stake in the Israeli business. Another option could be Vonetize initiating a dual listing on the Nasdaq (along with Tel Aviv) this year and then merging Desilu into that listing through a share-swap transaction down the line.
In announcing the acquisition, execs said the technology arm in Desilu’s L.A. post-production facilities will work closely with Vonetize’s team to integrate the Israeli company’s technology. Desilu said the Vonetize tech will be a “driving force” across many of its operations, from direct-to-consumer streaming offerings to interactive experiences to digital commerce.
Desilu Studios is owned Desilu Corp., a diversified company with interests in theme parks, merchandising and streaming and exhibition technology. The name is a fabled one in Hollywood, dating to the original Desilu’s founding by Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz in 1950. Ball later bought out Arnaz and ran the company on her own for a period of years before selling it to Gulf + Western, which re-branded it as Paramount Television. Along with I Love Lucy, the company’s credits include Star Trek and The Untouchables.
“It has been my vision from day one to deliver our content direct to consumers via streaming or any other emerging and disruptive technologies,” Charles B. Hensley, Desilu’s Chairman and CEO, said in the acquisition release. “Discovering Vonetize in Israel through my Exec VP Steven Posen has been a game changer for us, with Exec VP Bobbie Celler expediting and advancing our global footprint exponentially.”
Noam Josephides, Chairman of Vonetize, called Desilu “the embodiment of the classical Hollywood studio with a modern twist, a progressive vision on converging film, TV, technology and ancillary experiences into a whole new level of entertainment.”