Brown Bag Films acquired by 9 Story Media Group

9 Story Media Group CEO Vince Commisso gives Kidscreen the scoop on the deal that will see his company's 2D-animation and distribution capabilities bolstered by Brown Bag's CGI expertise and help the Irish animation studio start producing its own IPs.
August 18, 2015

Canadian prodco 9 Story Media Group has acquired Irish animation studio Brown Bag Films in a move bolsters the former’s creative 2D-animation and distribution capabilities with the latter’s CGI expertise – as well as pool attractive regional tax benefits. It will also help Brown Bag make the move from being primarily a service provider to a producer of its own IPs.

Brown Bag, which produces such children’s hit series as Doc McStuffins and Octonauts (pictured) on a third-party basis, employs 170 creative and production staff across operations in Dublin, Manchester and L.A. – a number that’s anticipated to grow by 50 more hires as a result of the deal. Brown Bag will retain its brand, while founder and CEO Cathal Gaffney and founder and creative director Darragh O’Connell remain at the helm.

9 Story president and CEO Vince Commisso says the acquisition, a first for his company following an equity investment from media entrepreneur Neil Court and Zelnick Media Capital last year, comes as Brown Bag enters a new chapter of original IP output.

“Brown Bag owns pieces [of series] that they’ve worked on, but has no copyright, which was going to change with or without us, but now we are on board. They are a strong service studio that’s now stepping into their own IP, and we can help them through that process,” says Commisso. “Most importantly, they are producers of high-quality content – the Pixar of preschool TV. Our management teams also share the same philosophy, which is to make the best quality show within all parameters.”

In terms of breaking down some parameters, Commisso says Brown Bag’s CGI capabilities are a large draw as 9 Story doesn’t currently have a foothold in the area.

“We’ve had to turn down CGI work in the past because it’s not what we do. We wouldn’t even outsource CGI. So, now there are opportunities for us to work together,” he says, adding that Brown Bag’s 2D-animation studio in Manchester, England, will work alongside 9 Story’s 20,000-square-foot 2D production facility in Toronto, which has churned out hit children’s shows like Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood and Camp Lakebottom.

“Two studios can each do half of a show, and now combined together, it gets made,” he says. As one entity, the companies will now also share the benefit of some plentiful financing tax credits available both within Ireland and Canada, which will come in handy as production output kicks into full gear.

Commisso says to expect an announcement of roughly six new projects in the pipeline, the details of which will start to emerge closer to the MIP markets in October. As a distribution company with a library of more than 1,800 half hours, 9 Story will be handling global distribution and licensing for all Brown Bag properties.

“We’re also going to look at synergistic opportunities and growth potential as a result of the acquisition,” Commisso says. “Of course, we will each continue to do things we’ve done well – let’s not fix what isn’t broken, but let’s see what we can do together that we couldn’t accomplish apart.”

The Brown Bag deal may not incite a string of similar acquisitions for 9 Story right away, but the company is focused on making investments to build its content library and brand portfolios. For now, the objective is to maximize production potential.

“It’s been a long eight-month process,” Commisso says of the deal. “You don’t do these things because the numbers work, you do them because the opportunities between people work – and then you sort out the numbers. The figures are confidential, but both sides are happy, so it’s the sign of a good deal.”

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