Banijay Group acquires majority stake in Screentime

International production conglomerate Banijay Group has acquired a majority stake in Screentime, the local company behind the successful Underbelly television franchise.

Banijay has a growing global distribution business (Banijay International) which will represent Screentime’s TV series and formats for sale around the world, according to Screentime managing director Bob Campbell, while Screentime will also consider launching local formats of programs within the Banijay Group.

“There have been a number of opportunities for this sort of deal over the years, none of which we’ve been particularly attracted to, but Banijay presented the right opportunities and circumstances for us to proceed,” Campbell told IF Magazine.

In recent years, Screentime has produced television content such as RBT; five series of Underbelly; Underbelly: Files; A Model Daughter: The Killing of Caroline Byrne; Breakers; MDA; Crownies and cloudstreet. Its international reality hit Popstars, which has been produced in more than 50 countries, will be relaunched at MIPCOM in October, while a new Underbelly series is currently in pre-production.

The acquisition marks Paris-based Banijay’s first entry into the Australian, New Zealand and Ireland-based territories, extending its presence to eleven countries in total.

Banijay Group executive vice president François de Brugada said in a statement: "We have been keen to extend our presence in English speaking territories but we knew that we needed to be patient and wait to make the right choice. Screentime's expertise, creativity, impressive IP and attitude excite us and we believe the alignment of both our cultures will ensure a seamless and successful integration."

The acquisition price was not disclosed although the stake is understood to be just above 50 per cent. Screentime was owned by Campbell and executive chairman Des Monaghan, who founded the company 16 years ago, and the Curran family through Capital Investment Group. Both Campbell and the Capital Investment Group will remain significant shareholders.

Last financial year, Screentime posted a 12.7 per cent rise in annual net profit to $1.975 million, according to documents filed with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission. The company paid shareholders fully-franked dividends totalling $935,000 in 2011.

Campbell said it would be “business as usual” in the short-term. Key staff are expected to remain with the company.

Other international players have also made local acquisitions in recent times. In May 2011, NBCUniversal International acquired a majority stake in Melbourne-based production company Matchbox Pictures.

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