US broadcasting giants buy South Pacific Pictures in billion-dollar deal

John Barnett, Chairman - South Pacific Pictures

New Zealand’s leading independent film and television production company is now owned by two major US broadcasting giants.

South Pacific Pictures (SPP) and its parent company, UK- based All3Media, have been bought by Discovery Communications and Liberty Global in deal worth £550 million ($1.1 billion).

All3Media bought SPP in 2003 and is the UK’s largest independent producer with overseas operations in the US, Germany and the Netherlands as well as New Zealand.

Discovery owns the Discovery and Animal Planet channels while Liberty is the world’s largest cable TV operator. Each will contribute $US150 million in cash toward the purchase, which they say is designed to expand the reach and scope of All3Media in its existing markets.

All3Media itself comprises some 20 production companies, of which SPP is one of the most important. It produces Shortland Street as well as creating other high-profile series such as Outrageous Fortune, Go Girls and Nothing Trivial.

It also has produced a number of hit and critically well received movies, such as Whale Rider and the recent White Lies.

A joint statement by SPP chairman John Barnett, who founded the company, and chief executive Kelly Martin says the new ownership will provide new opportunities for all companies in the All3Media group.

In the UK, All3Media companies produce such shows as Midsomer Murders, Hollyoaks, Skins and The Only Way is Essex.

All3Media is owned by its founders, including chairman Steve Morrison, and private equity firm Permira.

“This is a proud recognition of the achievements of our stellar creative companies in making ground breaking, popular, high-quality content,” says All3Media chief executive Farah Ramzan Golant in a statement.

“Our new strategic investors support our commercial ambition and value our creative independence. Through their new joint venture, they provide us with world class experience and resources to start the next chapter of our story.”

The Discovery-Liberty deal for All3Media continues a trend of consolidation among independent production companies over the past two years.

Last week, the UK’s ITV network made a deal with Leftfield Entertainment, home of Pawn Stars and other cable shows, for $US380 million.

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