Lionsgate Invests $200M in Craig Piligian's Pilgrim Studios

Bret Hartman

The strategic investment in the reality and digital content producer is part of the studio's diversification in television.

Lionsgate has made a strategic investment in unscripted producer Pilgrim Studios as part of its diversification into television.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. But it is understood Lionsgate is investing around $200 million for a majority stake in Craig Piligian's indie production outfit, even though the tie-up is being positioned as a partnership.

Complementing Lionsgate's scripted TV slate with titles like Orange Is the New Black and Nashville, Pilgrim’s unscripted programming slate has 47 series, including Syfy's Ghost Hunters, Welcome to Sweetie Pie’s on OWN, and the docu-drama Fast N’ Loud on Discovery.

Pilgrim's other TV credits include Wicked Tuna on National Geographic and The Ultimate Fighter, the flagship MMA fighting show, on Fox Sports 1. Pilgrim will continue to operate independently of Lionsgate under its current management led by founder and CEO Piligian, who retains a significant minority stake in the company.

"This deal creates tremendous synergies between our companies, including the benefits of our respective relationships in the industry and the strength of Lionsgate's worldwide distribution infrastructure," Piligian said in a statement. For its part, Lionsgate said the deal will give the two partners a combined roster of nearly 80 TV series across 40 networks, and expands Lionsgate’s position in unscripted programming.

"We’re delighted to be in business with Craig Piligian and his team, who have achieved remarkable success building Pilgrim into a global leader in unscripted content with a valuable portfolio of long-running returning series and reality brands,” said Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer in a statement.

Piligian was among the last independent reality powerhouses standing, as more and more unscripted producers have sold over the last few years — bought up by companies such as ITV, Fremantlemedia and European outfits.

The strategic investment accelerates Lionsgate's move into unscripted programming after recently growing its slate of nonfiction fare with shows like Monica the Medium, recently renewed for a second season on ABC Family, the horror-themed game show Hellevator on GSN, and the Freddie Wong RocketJump series for Hulu.

The deal was negotiated for Lionsgate by Laura Kennedy, executive vp corporate development, Lionsgate general counsel and chief strategic officer Wayne Levin and Linda Michaelson of Sheppard Mullin. Gretchen Stockdale, COO and general counsel for Pilgrim, Thomas Dey from ACF and Matt Thompson from Sidley Austin hammered out the deal for Pilgrim.

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