ITV will continue to eye acquisitions in the production space with CEO Carolyn McCall telling Deadline that it will be “very disciplined” about future purchases. However, the company has ruled out “significant” acquisitions in the scripted space in the U.S.
McCall’s comments come as the battle to buy Endemol Shine heats up with multiple bidders understood to be eyeing the Big Brother and Black Mirror producer.
McCall told Deadline, “We’ve had a very effective strategy of diversifying away from advertising, not because we don’t like it, but because it’s a cyclical business. We have made a lot of acquisitions and have doubled the size of the [ITV Studios] business in the last five years. We are going to continue to grow organically and that we will look at M&A, although we don’t comment on specific opportunities. We will look at M&A in a very disciplined way and a very returns focused way.”
The company has been aggressively acquisitive in the last eighteen months; in October 2017 it bought Italy’s Cattleya, producer of Gomorrah and Suburra, in June 2017 it acquired Swedish producer Elk and in February 2017 it bought French production group Tetra Media Group, producer of long-running crime series Profilage.
Earlier this month, Endemol Shine owners Apollo Global and 21st Century Fox hired Deutsche Bank and Liontree to advise on a sale, which could value the Masterchef owner anywhere between $2B-$3B. It’s thought that a number of international and U.S. companies, including All3Media co-owner Liberty Global, ITV and Vivendi-backed Banijay are considering an offer.
If ITV was to acquire Endemol Shine, it would be a transformative deal for ITV and would be a major statement by McCall, who joined at the start of the year. It would bring together global formats such as ITV’s Love Island and Netflix breakout Queer Eye with Endemol Shine’s own library of entertainment hits. It would also reunite John De Mol with the company that he founded. De Mol sold The Voice producer Talpa Media to ITV in 2015. ITV Chairman Peter Bazalgette also knows the business well, having sold his own indie to the company, prior to its merger with Shine, and worked as chief creative officer and UK chairman under former owners Spanish telecoms giant Telefonica.
In the U.S., ITV has ruled out “significant” purchases in the scripted space, preferring to grow the business through talent deals, similar to its arrangement with Marty Adelstein’s Tomorrow Studios, which is produced TNT’s Snowpiercer remake, which this week was picked up internationally by Netflix.
Outgoing chief operating officer and group finance director Ian Griffiths said, “We’re also looking at investing in U.S. scripted. Not in scale, one of the things we’re ruling out is a significant M&A investment in U.S. scripted. We have a fledgling business and we’re investing in talent who have got a track record of creating returning dramas that have the potential to travel.”