With its acquisition last month of Vancouver, Canada-based Studio B Productions, DHX Media is on its way to becoming one of the largest producers of kids content in the Great White North. The parent company of Decode Entertainment/Enterprises and Halifax Film laid out an initial cash payment of US$8 million for the toonhouse against a total purchase price of US$20 million max, which depends upon Studio B’s fiscal earnings for 2007/08.
Decode Entertainment president and DHX Media board member, Steven DeNure, says the deal was a natural. ‘The overall idea is that companies like Decode, Halifax and Studio B can operate with a high degree of autonomy and continue to do what they do well, but at the same time, have a complementary product mix.’
Studio B has developed a special gift for making kids ages six to 10 laugh, and this strength was at the heart of the acquisition. The shop has a broad portfolio of existing programming that resonates with this audience, as well as a seven-show production slate that includes comedy Kid vs. Kat (a co-pro with Canadian kidcaster YTV). DeNure says distribution arm Decode Enterprises’ sales capacity has always outstripped its sister companies’ levels of production and believes Studio B’s comedies for kids six to 10 will fill the hole nicely.
‘There is a bit of a developing shortage in core-kid animation,’ adds Neil Court, president of Decode Enterprises, noting that buyer response to the acquisition has been good, especially from broadcasters in Asia and Eastern Europe. The next order of business, he says, is to reorganize his sales team to accommodate the new additions to the catalogue.
For its part, Studio B will continue to operate under its current structure alongside DHX Media’s other subsidiaries, with founders Chris Bartleman and Blair Peters remaining at the helm. The deal will also give Studio B properties access to DHX’s online, mobile and consumer products channels – a prospect Peters finds enticing. ‘We were trying to do all of that on our own anyhow,’ he says. ‘Now, we are hoping to plug into Decode’s team.’
DHX has been on something of a spending spree of late. Just prior to acquiring Studio B, it dropped US$2 million on a 16.77% stake in Montreal, Canada-based online game/VOD app developer Tribal Nova. And DeNure’s not ruling out making more similar moves. ‘We need to be of a certain size, and we have growth prospects and momentum,’ he says.