Beyond acquires Seven Studios UK

Broadcast • July 2020

Sydney firm also takes ownership of US label 7Beyond to complement recent purchase of TCB Media Rights

Australia's Beyond International (BYI) has expanded its presence in the UK with the complete acquisition of Seven Studios UK from Seven West Media.

The deal, which was announced to the Australian stock exchange today, will see the indie rebrand as Beyond Productions and join recently acquired distributor TCB Media Rights as part of BYI's growing UK content portfolio.

As with the purchase of TCB, BYI completed the transaction through its Irish subsidiary Beyond Entertainment Ltd (BEL).

Additionally, producer-distributor BYI has strengthened its position in the US by buying up the remaining 50.98% equity it did not own in Los Angeles-based producer 7Beyond, a joint venture with Seven West's Seven Network.

That label also becomes part of BEL and rebrands as Beyond Productions, with both producers reporting into John Luscombe, Beyond Productions' general manager and executive vice-president.

London-based Beyond Productions is run by former BBC Studios exec Damon Pattison, who has been in the post of creative director since March 2019, alongside head of production Claire Browne and head of development Nikki Pinkus, as revealed by Broadcast.

In an exclusive interview with Broadcast, Mikael Borglund, BYI chief executive and managing director, said the company had been looking to expand into the UK production market for some time, to consolidate its long-established sales arm Beyond Distribution and TCB.

Borglund said the UK's terms of trade and rights retention was very attractive in an increasingly competitive landscape and the acquisition would build on its strategy of co-production and IP ownership rather than a focus on work-for-hire productions.

“The demands from traditional broadcasters for programming is going to continue – everything can't just go to streaming,” he added. “You've got to have a combination of working for streaming platforms and traditional free-to-air and cable networks.”

Broadened focus

Borglund added that Beyond Productions, which had been targeting the factual-entertainment market, was looking to “broaden the base of the types of productions the company is going to do”.

Pattison and his team have secured a BBC1 primetime commission for entertainment series Pooch Perfect, a format conceived in-house, with Beyond taking international format and finished programme rights to the series as part of the acquisition.

Pattison's indie has also been given a two-part pilot series commission from Discovery property brand HGTV to produce an international version of 7Beyond's original US format My Lottery Dream Home.

“Getting primetime commissions for Pooch Perfect in both the UK and Australia, with other territories pending, is proof positive that our company can deliver on a scale that belies its size,” said Pattison.

Besides fact-ent and entertainment, Borglund said he wanted to “grow the factual side” of the UK operation and was also targeting the scripted market, in line with Beyond's recent production strategy in Australia.

“We have got back into scripted in the last two years and have three active drama divisions developing projects for Australia and the international market,” he said. “Scripted is a natural fit. There have been some quite successful series between the UK and Australia recently.”

Seven West Media – owner of the Seven Network – will “retain participation in current projects” involved in the two entities but sanctioned the sale to Beyond because it had “reassessed” its desire to invest in “offshore production interests”, according to chief executive James Warburton.

“Our longstanding relationship with Beyond International makes them a natural partner to acquire these assets,” he added. “We welcome the strengthened business arrangement that will continue with Beyond.”

International expansion

Strengthening BYI's US and UK operations to complement its Australian base would be beneficial due to the “production synergy” between the three territories, according to Borglund. Key to this was the ability “to develop shows and go back and forth” between the countries.

Borglund said today's acquisitions were not the final step on Beyond's global growth, which has seen the firm's revenues shift to around 70% international compared to 30% domestic over the past 20 years.

He said the firm was “look for opportunities” to increasing its UK presence further and strengthen its “well-resourced” US business.

“John Luscombe and Damon will determine exactly how they want to grow the company as soon as they're in a position to do so,” he said. “Once we lay the roots in the UK, we then want to grow that.”

Luscombe said he would look to expand the “current creative relationship with Damon and his team and look forward to developing fresh entertainment and factual content for both UK and global markets”.

“With TCB's strong producer relationships in the UK and this latest acquisition, we are now in an enviable position to not only grow our business in Europe but also to increase the depth of our current development and production capacity based in the US and Australia,” he added.

John Elmes