Continuing its acquisition drive, Canada’s DHX Media is set to buy Vancouver-based animation producer Nerd Corps Entertainment for US$50 million. Expected to close by December 24, the deal will be carried out as a half-cash, half-DHX shares transaction.
Along with Nerd Corps’ animation studio and its 400 employees, DHX is also acquiring the company’s animation catalog totaling 200 half hours that includes current Disney XD hit Slugterra and all distribution and merchandising rights for Nerd Corps-owned series.
DHX president and COO Steven DeNure says the deal had been in development for several months and it was Nerd Corps’ track record in making great content that sells well internationally that drove the purchase. “What DHX produces is very different from what Nerd Corps makes (primarly boy-skewing action-comedy), but complementary,” he says. “And in terms of the animation studio, Nerd Corps’ expertise in CG is something our other animation studios don’t have. Also, Vancouver is a talent hub in the animation world now, and this gives us a much bigger foothold there.”
DHX’s staff numbers in Vancouver will shoot up from 300 to 700 employees. More importantly, DHX’s kids content operations are being reorganized around Nerd Corps principals Asaph “Ace” Fipke and Ken Faier. Formalized as DHX Content, Fipke is taking the role of the division’s chief content officer, Kids & Family, while Faier becomes SVP and GM, Kids & Family. According to DeNure, both will oversee the division’s operations across all DHX animation studios, and their production and series/property development teams will report to the pair. DeNure adds that DHX Vancouver’s current SVP of production, Kirsten Newlands, will be joining Fipke and Faier to work in an overall capacity across DHX’s animation operations.
DHX’s live-action youth and comedy content producers, Halifax Film and Epitome Pictures, do not fall under Fipke and Faier’s remit. And DHX Television, comprised of recent acquisition Family Channel, Disney XD Canada and Disney Junior Canada, will also maintain its independent content development operations.
Faier, who is based in Toronto, will join DHX’s Toronto HQ, while Fipke is set to stay in Vancouver. DHX plans to keep the Nerd Corps studio intact, and DeNure says a decision has not been made on whether or not Nerd Corps will remain distinct or be rebranded under the DHX umbrella.
The buy caps a busy year for DHX. Along with the Astral TV channels (US$160 million), the multinational company has scooped up UK producer Ragdoll Productions (US$27.7 million) and house of Degrassi, Epitome Pictures (US$30 million), along with consolidating its licensing operations under DHX Brands and opening a US office for licensing subsidiary CPLG.
The purchase of Nerd Corps arguably makes DHX one of the largest, if not largest, animation producers in Canada. So, is DHX done shopping for now? “If you know of anything out there that looks promising, let me know,” says DeNure.
Stay tuned in 2015, we guess.