Big Fish Entertainment Acquired By MGM

MGM Television

MGM has just acquired Big Fish Entertainment, the producer of A&E’s Live PD, VH1’s Black Ink Crew and other shows. The company will continue to operate under the Big Fish moniker, and founder and president Dan Cesareo will remain President but now report to Barry Poznick, president of Unscripted Television at MGM. Big Fish will also continue to run out of New York.

The announcement was made this morning by Mark Burnett who is President, Television Group & Digital at MGM. The acquisition of Big Fish expands MGM television’s roster of unscripted producers and production companies that are part of the division led by Burnett. The Big Fish deal joins MGM Television’s prior acquisition of Evolution Media (which added The Real Housewives of Orange County, The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, Vanderpump Rules and Botched to its library of hit unscripted series). We understand that this an earn-out structured deal so has a potential worth of $200M.

“Dan Cesareo is an innovator who has grown Big Fish into a dynamic company. We are going to have fun together. When you combine Big Fish, Evolution, MGM and Orion, we now have hits ranging across all television,” said Burnett, who came into MGM’s executive ranks three years ago when the company agreed to buy the 45% stake it didn’t own in its United Artists Media Group joint venture and named him head of the Television and Digital Group.

Burnett now oversees an incredible stable of highly successful, unscripted television series, some of which he brought to the table himself. MGM Television has hit series on all four major TV networks, including Survivor (CBS), The Voice (NBC), Shark Tank (ABC), Beat Shazam (FOX), The World’s Best (CBS) and the upcoming series TKO: Total Knock Out (CBS).

“Big Fish Entertainment has been built over many years by the hard work and commitment of an enormously talented team of showrunners, development executives, producers, editors and many other dedicated professionals,” said Cesareo who gave credit to all who helped to build the company. “We’ve also had amazing support of buyers that backed our creative and our risk-taking. I am truly thrilled now to be part of the MGM family, which will allow  Big Fish to scale and broaden, while keeping the brand’s spirit of agility and independence intact. I’m beyond excited to work with Mark, Barry and their entire team as we begin a new chapter.”

Big Fish Entertainment’s Live PD on A&E is TV’s No. 1 true crime series and the No. 1 series on Friday and Saturday nights across all of cable television. Since its founding in 2006, Big Fish has been churning out top-rated programming in the live, unscripted, reality, lifestyle and documentary space for various networks, including Lifetime, VH1, WE tv, MTV, Discovery, E!, National Geographic, Oxygen, Travel Channel, Spike/Paramount Network. It has produced more than 750 hours of programming to date.

Some those highlights include the huge hit Black Ink Crew for VH1, Live PD Presents: Women on Patrol for Lifetime, Hustle &; Soul for WE tv and the groundbreaking series Bomb Patrol: Afghanistan, which aired in 2012 on the Esquire network, Chris Paul’s Chapter 3 for ESPN, Tattoo Girls for TLC, and the upcoming Just Tattoo of Us for MTV.

“Big Fish has created a wide-range of programming that is compelling, edgy, and must-watch,” said Poznick. “We are excited to put the full support of MGM Studios behind Dan and the team to make Big Fish even bigger.”

In scripted, MGM Television has dominated with such critical and ratings darling as Fargo (FX), and The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu) as well as Vikings (History), Get Shorty (Epix) and Condor (AT&T’s Audience Network). Finally, through its distribution entity, Orion TV Productions, MGM Television has the popular, syndicated daytime courtroom series Lauren Lake’s Paternity Court and Couples Court with the Cutlers.

Big Fish also produced the Gates Foundation Reality PD public schools project. Earlier this month, the company was honored with the “Production Company of the Year” award at the inaugural NPACT Impact Awards, which recognize achievement in nonfiction content.

Big Fish Entertainment was repped in the transaction by Todd Weinstein and Tara Senior at Del Shaw Moonves, Lori York at CAA, Steve Hurdle at Loeb & Loeb, and by Ron Milkes and Bryan Bowles of Bryor Media. MGM was repped in the transaction by the law firm of Latham & Watkins LLP.

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