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All3 Buyer Rumors Heat Up
Banijay beckons: The future of All3Media has been under discussion for a large portion of 2023, and it appears a deal might be reaching the finish line. It’s entirely possible there will have been another update by the time you read this, but as of right now it looks like the auction for the Squid Game: The Challenge and The Traitors super-indie will end with rival Banijay the winner. In October, we revealed Banijay, Peter Chernin’s North Road Company and Goldman Sachs were the frontrunners, with ITV keeping tabs on things from the sidelines. At industry shindig Content London this week (more on that below), rumors were flying that the bidding process was coming to a head, with conflicting reports of who’s in and who’s out. The one consistent name is Big Brother and Survivor owner Banijay. On Friday, we reported that it is now in the driving seat, with Reuters saying Marco Bassetti’s outfit has made a binding offer for the Warner Bros. Discovery and Liberty Global-owned company. We hear All3 is still valued at around £1B ($1.3B), although Reuters claimed All3 wants 13 times its £100M yearly earnings, totalling around £1.3B. Quizzed on stage at Content London about a deal, Bassetti kept quiet, choosing instead to criticize private equity firms for “raising expectation in the market” following a slew of mega-money deals from PE-backed companies. He also revealed a push into sports programing.
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What now?: Should Banijay’s offer be taken forwards, the firms will enter into an exclusive period of due diligence. One M&A source said this would likely take a few months, meaning a deal could close early next year, though it’s not implausible that it gets done this side of Christmas. A merged Banijay-All3 would be a significant competitor to BBC Studios and ITV Studios in the UK, effectively consolidating most of the major super-indies of the 21st century within its ranks. As industry watchers will already know, the current Banijay already owns the former Endemol Shine Group and Zodiak Media production companies, while All3 has more than 50 labels and is one of the biggest of its kind in the UK, counting the likes of Objective Media Group, Raw and Neal Street Productions in its stable.
Could cost a few ‘Squid’: Among All3’s biggest assets is its long-time collaboration with Stephen Lambert’s unscripted hit machine Studio Lambert. While the ownership of the production house is complicated, who wouldn’t want to be associated with shows such as Gogglebox, The Traitors and Squid Game: The Challenge? The latter, a competition series based on the Netflix drama with a mind boggling $4.56M prize, is Studio Lambert’s latest hit. The debut episode racked up more than 2 million viewers in five days in the UK, according to official data. That made it the most-streamed show in the country (excluding Prime Video and Apple TV+). Anyone for a game of ‘Red Light, Green Light’?
London grammar: The international TV biz winged its way to the UK’s capital this week for Content London, the programing and production event that’s been attracting talent and execs from the U.S. and beyond for some time now. Partially held at King’s Place, the London office that houses the Guardian, the buzzy event featured talks from the likes of Netflix, Amazon, Wattpad Webtoon Studios, AMC Networks, MGM+, Universal International Studios, BBC Studios, ITV Studios and Sony Pictures Television (SPT). Ravi Ahuja, Global Television Studios Chairman at SPT, kicked things off on Tuesday with a bit of humor after Sony struck a deal with the Guardian to develop the newspaper’s reporting into TV shows. “We want to do deals with companies in the same building we’re in,” he quipped during his keynote.
“Inflection point”: On a more serious note, Ahuja provided an astute analysis of the U.S. market following the nightmare year for the entertainment business. Noting it had been “too hot” (too many shows in production, acquisition prices too high), he welcomed things “cooling off,” branding the current market an “interesting inflection point for our industry.” Ahuja also backed the biz to find more efficient, sensible business practices. He wasn’t the only one with commentary on a wild 2023, with MGM+’s Michael Wright calling it a period of “controlled chaos” and Wattpad Webtoon Studios’ David Madden saying companies were “still reeling from everything that’s been in the news reports over the last year.”
Primed and ready: It may have been one of the most long-winded renewals in the history of television, but Jeremy Clarkson is officially going back to the Cotswolds, as delegates at Content London heard first yesterday. The controversial presenter’s show, Clarkson’s Farm, is one of Prime Video’s most successful, running to three seasons so far. However, after Clarkson’s supremely distasteful Sun column published in December 2022, doubts were cast over Amazon’s appetite to bring the unscripted hit back. In September, we reported that the streaming giant was minded to greenlight another run and that proved correct, as Amazon Studios Head of Unscripted for the UK Fozia Khan confirmed Season 4 will begin shooting “very soon.” A subsequent Insta post from townie-turned-farm hand Clarkson made the news doubly official. Full Content London coverage can be found here.
World of ‘Wonka’
“Charisma factory”: Timothée Chalamet has just pulled off a pretty impressive feat: Making a good fist of playing the wondrous and whimsical Willy Wonka in Warner Bros and Heyday Films’ movie Wonka. The star was present at a red carpet world premiere of the feature musical on Tuesday night, alongside the likes of Olivia Colman, Keegan-Michael Key, Hugh Grant and director Paul King. Baz Bamigboye and Nancy Tartaglione braved the chilly weather to grab a moment with Chalamet, who said after “a lot of practice” he is now able to “do an impression of someone who can sing and dance.” Over in the U.S., Denise Petski rounded up first impressions of the film, which follows Wonka from his beginnings selling candy in a small shop to his rise as an eccentric genius chocolatier. One reviewer wrote Chalamet “alone as reason to see the film,” while another called him a “charisma factory.” Considering the bar will always be set at Gene Wilder’s lofty height, that’s not bad going.
Red Sea Rising
Arabian nights: Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Film Festival kicked off on Thursday with a star-packed red carpet featuring a surprise appearance from Will Smith alongside the likes of Johnny Depp, Sharon Stone and Michelle Williams who mingled with local talent. Deadline was there, mic and camera in hand to grab a word with many of them. This third edition comes just six years after the country lifted its 35-year cinema ban as part of its 2030 Vision opening up the country and moving its economy away from a reliance on oil. In sign of that the territory’s efforts to become a major film and TV hub are coming together, the festival opened an Arabic-language film, the Saudi-set fantasy adventure HWJN, for the first time. Unfolding against the backdrop of the Red Sea port city of Jeddah, this year’s edition was put together against the backdrop of the Israel-Hamas conflict and the tail-end of the Hollywood’s strike but despite the logistical challenges and geopolitical tensions in the air, international industry has gotten behind the event. “I cannot not be here,” said top French-Tunisian producer Tarak Ben Ammar. “When you see that my latest movie Equalizer 3… grossed €6M [$6.5M] here and only €2.7M in Spain, or in Italy, that shows you this market is exponential.” Stone, who was at the festival last year, was also among those getting behind the territory. “As our country is sort of divesting itself from being a first world country – now we’re considered a second world country on the global map – it’s really interesting to see as we, as women, lose our rights, here in Saudi women are gaining their rights, and it’s so intriguing to watch how this is happening,” she told the Deadline’s Red Sea Studio. Stone and Ranveer Singh were among a raft of top talent who will be stopping by the studio over the coming days, while the international film team is about and about across the festival. The Red Sea Film Festival runs from November 30 to December 9. Keep up with our coverage here.
Drama School Inspection
ArtsEd under fire: Jake’s ongoing investigation into the Andrew Lloyd Webber-backed UK drama school ArtsEd developed further this week. His initial report revealed claims of a toxic culture and student safety concerns at the school, which counts Catherine Zeta-Jones and Jane Seymour as alumni. It has now emerged the school will launch an independent review after 109 parents made an intervention, writing to ArtsEd Chairman Brian Brodie to say they were “horrified” by the school’s response to the allegations uncovered by Deadline. An earlier external inquiry in 2021 investigated an allegation of historical misconduct against a teacher. No doubt this story isn’t over yet.
🌶️ Hot One: Game of Throne alumni Alfie Allen and Jack Gleeson will lead Mark Williams’ new international thriller series Safe Harbor alongside Charlie Murphy.
🌶️ Another one: An immersive adaptation of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time novels is in the works, Zac revealed.
🌶️ One more, sure: Jessica Chastain gave her seal of approval to SAG-AFTRA’s tentative agreement.
👨🏻⚕️ Doctor, Doctor: Max revealed Doctor Who has shifted away from a residuals model for its writers, sparking major below-the-line debate.
👑 Royal palaver: Piers Morgan caused chaos after naming the royals accused of commenting on the skin color of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s son in the Dutch version of Omid Scobie’s book. (It’s as complicated as it sounds.)
🧟♀️ Zombies in Japan: The Walking Dead studio Skybound Entertainment opened a Japanese office.
😮 “Market shock”: The UK’s Channel 4 may finally use its $95M credit facility, with its CEO under fire over the Gogglebox network’s finances.
⚖️ Legal: David Walliams settled with Britain’s Got Talent maker Fremantle.
🎥 Trail: For Man on the Run, a true-crime feature doc on international fugitive Jho Low for which Netflix has acquired worldwide rights.
And finally… A fond farewell to Thomas Augsberger, the much-loved German producer and international media consultant, who died suddenly this week aged 60.
Melanie Goodfellow contributed to this week’s Insider
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