'Kardashians' Producer's Parent Company to Acquire 'Wife Swap' Maker, Create European Reality Giant

E! Network

Banijay Group and Zodiak Media will combine to form a TV production giant with annual revenue of around $1 billion.

Wife Swap producer Zodiak Media and international production firm Banijay Group, which owns the company behind Keeping Up With the Kardashians, have agreed to combine to create a new reality TV giant.

Banijay, which owns such production firms as Kardashians, Project Runway, Real World and Total Divas producer Bunim/Murray in the U.S.; Brainpool in Germany; Screentime in Australia; and Nordisk in Scandinavia will control the merged production firm with annual revenue of around $1 billion.

The companies said they will create "one of the world’s biggest independent production and distribution companies, and the largest not controlled by a media group."

Zodiak owns such French labels as GTV, Adventure Line Productions, KM Productions and Mona Lisa, as well as U.K. businesses RDF Television, IWC and Bwark. Zodiak-produced scripted shows include supernatural series Being Human for BBC Three and Syfy and Wallander, the BBC One drama starring Kenneth Branagh. Zodiak also owns the format rights to Fort Boyard and The Secret Millionaire, among others.

The combined company will have a presence in more than 18 territories, producing entertainment, drama, factual, reality entertainment, docu-drama, children’s and animation programming, the partners said.

Financial terms of the deal weren't disclosed. Further details will be revealed at a later stage.

The combination comes at a time when ITV, Discovery Communications and Liberty Global co-own All3Media, and others have made acquisitions to increase their scale in the TV production space. Last year, a three-way merger created Endemol Shine Group.

Italian media firm De Agostini already owns Zodiak and holds a minority stake in Banijay.

Banijay was founded in 2008 and is led by former Endemol Group president Marco Bassetti, who will serve as CEO of the merged company. Zodiak's CEO is Marc-Antoine d’Halluin. French businessman and former Endemol France chief Stephane Courbit will become chairman. LOV Group, Courbit's family holding company, is the lead shareholder in Banijay.

A French court found Courbit guilty of taking advantage of L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt and getting her to invest in his businesses without her full understanding. He was slapped with a fine.

Twitter: @georgszalai

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