After weeks of speculation, Zodiak and Banijay have now confirmed their merger, in the process creating a pan-Euro production giant with revenues in the $1 billion ballpark. The new company will now have a footprint in more than 18 territories producing entertainment across a broad range of program genres including drama, reality, docu-drama, children’s and animation.
Banijay owns U.S.-based Bunim/Murray (Keeping Up With The Kardashians) and Stephen David Entertainment (The Men Who Built America) as well as companies in Germany (Brainpool), Australia (Screentime) and Scandinavia (Nordisk). Zodiak owns RDF Television, IWC and Bwark in the UK. The two companies have significant interests in France, with Banijay owning Air Productions and H20 Productions and Zodiak owning GTV, Adventure Line Productions, KM Productions and Mona Lisa.
The new entity will see Banijay owner Stéphane Courbit chairman and Banijay chief executive Marco Bassetti continue as chief executive of the merged company. It is still unclear what the role of Zodiak chief exec Marc-Antoine d’Halluin will be.
Banijay is majority owned by controversial French businessman Stephane Courbit’s LOV Group. Courbit was formerly head of Endemol France. Banijay chief exec Marco Bassetti was formerly Endemol Group president. The deal would give Bassetti a return to the UK market through Zodiak’s UK businesses RDF Television, IWC and Bwark.
Courbit was found guilty by a French court of taking advantage of France’s second-richest woman, 92-year-old L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt, when he had her invest over $100 million in his businesses, including Banijay, allegedly without her full understanding of her investments. Courbit was fined $280,000 by a judge as a consequence.
There was already a degree of shared ownership between the two groups, with Italian firm D’Agostini, which fully owned Zodiak and had a minority stake in Banijay.
There has generally been a mood of consolidation and acquisition in the indie TV sector with the likes of Endemol, Shine and Core Media Group merging and Discovery Communications and Liberty Global’s deal to buy All3Media leading to a spending spree. All3Media subsequently acquired Sam Mendes and Pippa Harris’ Neal Street Productions.