Endemol inks Original deal for reality TV

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Endemol USA has acquired a majority stake in production company Original Media in a move that further solidifies its position in nonscripted TV programming and enhances its presence in scripted TV series.

The deal also will allow the unit of Netherlands-based Endemol to expand into such areas as feature films and digital programming.

It is the first major acquisition by Endemol USA since Ron Milkes joined the company in April as senior vp corporate development with the mandate of expanding the reality giant's U.S. position.

Original Media's credits include Academy Award-nominated feature films "Half Nelson" and "The Squid and the Whale," unscripted TV series "Miami Ink" and "LA Ink" for TLC and "Storm Chasers" on the Discovery Channel. The firm, led by CEO and co-founder Charlie Corwin, also recently signed a first-look deal with NBC Entertainment, which has led to a 13-episode commitment for the drama "The Philanthropist" for the 2008-09 TV season.

The companies didn't disclose financial terms, but it was likely in the $50 million range. Endemol has the right to further boost its ownership in Original Media to 100% in the coming years.

Original Media will operate as an indie studio within Endemol USA, which has grown its business worldwide by adding successful production outfits in this way. Original will benefit from Endemol's capital, relationships, distribution partnerships and foreign market presence.

Endemol president David Goldberg said the deal "allows us to not only expand our footprint in scripted and unscripted television programming, but also to further extend our digital media initiatives and bring us into the development and production of feature films."

Milkes saidthat he expects several other strategic acquisitions and joint ventures during the coming years "to speed up our growth."

Original Media will continue to operate out of its headquarters in New York with satellite offices in Los Angeles and Miami.

"I'll do more and bigger projects," said Corwin, but he added that his focus will remain on quality over quantity.

The company recently finished work on its latest film, the Josh Hartnett starrer "August," which Corwin said likely will premiere at a major film festival.

Endemol USA is known for such hit shows as NBC's "Deal or No Deal" and "Fear Factor" and CBS' "Big Brother." Spanish telecom giant Telefonica controls about 75% of Endemol.

Beyond Original's work, the company has several feature film projects with a focus on lower budgets and broader audience appeal in development.
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