A+E Networks Buys Out NBCUniversal in German Joint Venture

A+E Networks
Sean Cohan, A+E Networks

The move, which gives A+E full control over its German-language operations in Europe, is part of a broader international push by the company.

A+E Networks has signed a deal to take full control of its German joint venture A+E Networks Germany, buying out the stake held by NBCUniversal International.

A+E and NBCUni set up the joint operation 12 years ago. The network operates History and A+E branded channels across Europe's German-speaking territories.

History, which is the top-ranked factual channel in Germany, reaches more than 5 million subscribers. A&E reaches more than 4 million. Under the terms of the agreement, NBCUniversal International will continue to provide key services to A+E Networks in German-speaking Europe over the coming years.

“We are incredibly proud of the success we have achieved with our partner NBCUniversal International since 2005,” said Sean Cohan, president international and digital at A+E, who made the announcement Thursday. “With powerful brands, History and A&E, and a talented local team, we look forward to building on that success with strategic investment in local programming and new linear and digital services to grow our audiences in one of the world’s largest media markets.”

Patrick Vien, EMD, International, A+E Networks noted that one of the trends across the international television marketplace "has been the increasing popularity of local or regionally-sourced programming" and that the German-language market provided a large-enough audience base to make the production, or acquisition, of local-language programming financially viable for A+E.

The German deal, which still has to be approved by regulatory authorities, is part of a broader strategy at A+E to take a greater ownership position in its international ventures as the company makes a concerted international push. A+E already has wholly-owned or majority-owned A+E Networks entities in Southeast Asia, Italy and Japan and is set to launch a new operation in Korea this fall.

A+E and Cohan have committed to increasing investment in local productions across its European markets, which currently include shows such as Ronnie O’Sullivan’s American Hustle and Britain’s Next Top Model in the U.K., Mafia Queens in Italy and History Hunters in Germany.

Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter shortly after announcing the deal, Cohan said A+E was not planning a wave of M&A activity in the future —"traditionally, we've preferred to grow organically, we've been builders, not buyers" —but reiterated the company's approach that sees strong growth opportunities outside North America's “mature” cable market. Going forward, Cohan said, A+E will be "much more open to international storytellers, whether that's in traditional television or in digital formats, like short form."

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