Endemol Shine, the product of a mega-merger in TV production, weathered a turbulent 2015 as its three constituent parts – Core Media, Endemol and Shine Group – combined across the world.
Now, with only France to go, Endemol Shine Group’s CEO Sophie Turner Laing wants to focus on the merger’s original aims, widening the revenue base by turning TV shows into multiplatform brands that can travel the globe.
“We produced 733 productions last year in the middle of a merger and integration,” Turner Laing said, speaking at this year’s APOS. “So I said to the team, so what’s the number going to be this year, if it’s all going to be plain sailing?”
Endemol Shine – best known for non-scripted formats such as Big Brother and Master Chef – is now treating all of its assets as enduring franchises, Turner Laing explained.
The move should ease pressure on margins, while taking the group – co-owned by 21st Century Fox and private equity firm Apollo Global – into new areas, from online games to branded entertainment.
“Thinking of programs as brands is very much our focus,” said Turner Laing, a former executive with UK pay-TV player Sky. “I want to pivot us away from being purely B2B into a more B2C world.”
The company wants to be more involved in how digital rights are used, for example, to sustain interest in shows between seasons.
“An interesting debate we have with a lot of our customers is, who does the social,” Turner Laing remarked.
“A lot of broadcasters say we need all the digital rights, we want to do this stuff and then, most of the time, sit on them,” she added. “My feeling is we have to work with them… because we are much closer to the heart of the show.”
Endemol Shine has also teamed up with YouTube star Michelle Phan to launch Icon, a multichannel online video network focused on the beauty segment, which made its debut in the US and Europe last year.
In February, the network also landed a linear TV deal in Germany.
Icon Asia, meanwhile, featuring online talent from Singapore, the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand and Hong Kong, started rolling out in April, in English at first before further localization.
Multichannel networks (MCNs) – often anchored around YouTube alongside other large-scale online platforms such as Facebook and Instagram – open up new opportunities for brand sponsorships as well as ad sales.
Digital monetization is proving to be tough, although Turner Laing is confident that it can become a major part of the business.
“I recently hired a new director of strategy who is only a digital native, because quite frankly I have enough people who can tell me what to do on television,” she said.
“We are very focused on building partnerships with all sorts of platforms.”
Endemol Shine is also venturing into the movie business, building on its scripted dramas, which account for a sizable but minority chunk of revenue.
One upcoming production is a Chinese film based on The Brain, a non-scripted German format that has been running on TV in China for four years.
The group has also made films in India, Nigeria and Turkey.
Across Asia meanwhile, much of Endemol Shine’s reorganization took place early last year, as the regional hub moved from Hong Kong to Singapore under Asia MD Fotini Paraskakis.
Viacom alum William Tan joined in April 2015 to head Greater China, while Deepak Dhar runs the business in India, a four-year-old JV where private equity firm CA Media owns a 49% stake.
Around 55 Endemol Shine formats are on air across Asia. Turner Laing wants to see the region produce original ideas and IP that can then be exported abroad.
Earlier this year for example, Endemol Shine entered into an international co-development pact for non-scripted formats with Korean entertainment major CJ E&M.
Early conversations have included the role VR can play in supporting franchises, within Korea and globally. That's in line with Turner Laing's group-wide mandate to go beyond traditional revenue streams.
“What I love is their total focus and energy on what the future could be,” she said.
“For us, that is highly important because we need to be incredibly fast and flexible, which is interesting running a group that has 120 production companies in it,” she added.
“We rely on our individuals leading each company to be as up to speed as they possibly can.”