With their seemingly endless supplies of investment capital, the new IPO cash-infused German prodcos drew a lot of speculative interest again this year-most of it focusing on the fate of TV-Loonland, yet another emerging German player that has set its sights on global-scale lateral expansion.
Following directly on the heels of its September acquisition of London-based toon house Telemagination, TV-L has announced three new takeover deals that give the company operations bases in two more important international territories, as well as an Internet outlet for spinning its growing content library onto the web.
To gain a solid production and distribution foothold in the U.S., TV-L has picked up all TV production and distribution rights to the Sony Wonder and Sunbow Entertainment catalogs. The agreement expands on an existing deal signed last fall that gave TV-L European rights to Sony Wonder’s library of more than 1,200 half hours. In addition to gaining global rights to this content, the new deal means Loonland will control Sunbow’s State-side distribution network that currently sells programming to more that 500 clients in 145 countries. Under the agreement, TV-L will have rights to all ongoing productions and Sunbow’s productions, name, offices and business assets. Sony Music Entertainment will keep the Sony Wonder name, as well as North American home video and worldwide audio rights.
South of the border, TV-Loonland has taken over Salsa Distribution, a three-year-old company with a strong kids and family bent. Salsa holds the Latin American rights to more than 2,000 hours of TV fare, ironically including all of EM.TV’s Jim Henson shows and RTV Family Entertainment programming. Salsa founder Lisa Hryniewicz has been pegged to head up TV-L’s sales activities as head of distribution.
On the surface, TV-L’s flurry of content acquisitions seems to indicate that the company is cribbing from EM.TV’s brand- and merch-based Junior strategy. However, Loonland CEO Peter Volkle adamantly denies this comparison’s validity and says that focusing on quality programming and consolidating acquisitions is more critical than `umbrella brand’ labeling.
He says TV-L’s next big goal will be to customize its content into webisodes and interactive games for the FamilyHarbour.de web portal, which the company also recently acquired. Striving to achieve an open-content Internet model whereby TV-L fare will be featured alongside other licensed web entertainment, Volkle says heavy branding would limit opportunities to ally with other on-line content companies, as well as making the portal’s focus appear to be all about merchandising. Year-old Internet service provider Family Harbour is the only German ISP to offer a special filter to protect kids from the evils of the web. In order to beef up the site with compelling content, Loonland has a broadband delivery system in the testing stage that will make streaming, downloadables and multiplayer games possible in the coming months. Also in the works is a patented Internet-based tracking technology system capable of billing subscribers for accessing web fare. Ned from Nelvana’s Ned’s Newt will roll out this month as the portal’s on-line host, and characters from the popular German series Pettson & Findus will join Ned before Christmas.
Despite so much activity, Volkle says TV-L is going to ground for the next little while to logistically manage all the changes. ‘We need to consolidate now and integrate this expanded structure we’ve built up to focus on the content.’ That said, Volkle does admit that he’s on the lookout for an Asian distribution player with a hand in the convergence game to fill the missing Pacific Rim piece of the global TV-L puzzle.