Endemol charts Southern route

Flexes muscles in region with acquisition of Oz television powerhouse

Making good on his pledge to grow its scripted drama and distribution businesses, Endemol CEO Ynon Kreiz said Monday that the reality producer has acquired 100% of Fairfax Media's Southern Star, one of Australia's leading TV distribution and production groups.

The deal, for an undisclosed amount, gives the producer- distributor of "Wipeout" and "Deal or No Deal" full control of Southern Star's portfolio of 14,000 hours of drama, kids' entertainment, factual and reality formats, including distribution rights to such key international properties as "Home and Away" and "McLeod's Daughters."

Under the pact, distribution arm Southern Star International, production division Southern Star Entertainment and Southern Star's 49% stake in reality and factual producer Endemol Southern Star will fall under the Endemol umbrella, though the key executives at each unit will be retained.

Southern Star CEO Hugh Marks will continue in that role, reporting to Kreiz, while Endemol Southern Star and Southern Star Entertainment will continue to fall under Rory Callaghan, who will report to Endemol COO Marco Bassetti.

Southern Star International will continue to be headed by Cathy Payne, who will report to incoming Endemol chief commercial officer Tom Toumazis, who is expected to play a key role in integrating the businesses.

Kreiz said the deal will help private-equity-backed Endemol achieve "key strategic objectives," including establishing itself as a major production force in Australia, New Zealand and the Asia Pacific region, building its global distribution platform and accelerating it scripted programming activities. (partialdiff)