The Qatari-based BeIn Media Group (BMG) has acquired US studio Miramax. The previous shareholder of Miramax was the holding company Filmyard Holdings, a joint venture controlled by the US investment fund Colony Capital and the Qatar Investment Authority, one of the Gulf Emirate’s sovereign funds. Filmyard Holdings acquired Miramax in December 2010 for $663 million from Walt Disney.
Financial details of the transaction were not disclosed. As a result of the acquisition, BMG now has access to a library of over 700 titles that have collectively garnered 68 Oscars, including Best Picture winners The English Patient, Shakespeare in Love, Chicago and No Country for Old Men. After a period of production inactivity to focus on exploiting its catalogue, it was also announced that in 2016 Miramax will invest in and co-distribute several upcoming feature films including Bad Santa 2, Bridget Jones’s Baby, Southside With You and The 9th Life of Louis Drax, as well as the television show From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series.
The Chairman and CEO of BMG characterised the transaction as 'a key milestone in our strategy' complementing the Group’s plans to grow across the entertainment industry and develop new content production.
BeIn Media Group operates a global sports channel business active in 32 countries, including them the US, Canada, France, Spain and Australia. In November 2015, the Qatari company launched an entertainment package in the Middle East & North Africa (MENA), comprising 33 channels (17 of them in HD). Among the channels were two movie channels, BeIn Movies 1 HD and BeIn Movies 2 HD, while in January 2016 the operator launched the BeIn Movies 3 HD.
The acquisition of Miramax, an iconic indie studio and creator of some of the best known films of the past 30 years, represents another key strategic move for BMG to further enrich its entertainment content portfolio in its home market. Since November 2015, when the Qatari company announced its entry into the entertainment content market in MENA, BMG has been involved in a number of deals with global and regional content owners and distributors. These include an agreement with Discovery Communications for the exclusive carriage of five channels (all in HD) plus the offering of Animal Planet HD on a non-exclusive basis. Following this deal, the Qataris also inked an agreement with Fox for the exclusive offer of Fox HD and FOX Movies HD channels. Acting shrewdly, BMG managed to snatch five Turner Broadcasting channels (CNN HD, TCM, Cartoon Network, Boomerang and HLN) from rival MENA pay TV platform OSN. These are now being provided exclusively via BeIn’s platform. The Qatari operator has enriched its movie content portfolio inking deals with movie distributors like Prime Entertainment, FrontRow Entertainment and Italia Film International. These moves clearly portray the ambition and energy of BMG and a determination to swiftly promote its new business proposition.
So far the Qataris have concentrated their efforts in securing second-window pay TV rights for movies and TV series, a strategy which can hardly challenge OSN’s position as the exclusive destination for premium entertainment content in MENA. The Miramax acquisition will give access to first-window pay TV rights for the catalogue of movies and TV shows controlled by the US mini-studio. OSN has secured first-window pay TV rights for premium content with Disney-ABC Studios, NBC-Universal, Warner Bros, HBO, Paramount, Sony and MGM. The Qataris seemed determined to set their foothold on the global business of production of premium entertainment content and therefore acquiring a strong and recognisable brand like Miramax is a step in that direction. As a result of the deal, BMG can benefit by partnering with an experienced management team in Hollywood which can bring in fresh ideas, expertise and know-how to further develop its content portfolio.
The acquisition of Miramax fits very well into the framework of a global expansion business strategy adopted by the management of BMG: the group has a clear intention to expand into other territories and develop a global strategy for its media portfolio—the company wants to make its channels available in as many international markets as possible. The MENA region will be the hub for the new entertainment channels and will serve to test the waters for a possible future expansion in the TV markets of Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, regions in which BeIn Media is either already investing (Asia) or planning to invest (Sub-Saharan Africa). Part of this strategy for moving into the entertainment content market is also the acquisition of Digiturk, Turkey’s largest pay TV operator.
BMG’s recent deals serve another purpose: to deter its clientele from the encroaching threat of international SVoD services, like Netflix, which launched in the MENA region from January 2016.
For Miramax, the sale is the latest chapter of its turbulent but successful life. Founded in 1979 by the Weinsteins, and sold to Disney in 1993 for $60 million, the indie studio was sold on by Disney to Filmyard when the major studio changed its strategy to focus on branded tentpole movies from Marvel, Pixar and Disney itself. The Weinsteins moved on from Miramax in 2005 and started their own venture, The Weinstein Company.
For Miramax, the time of producing and distributing edgy and challenging titles might be gone as the Qataris seem more poised to invest for more conservative, family-values content that will have an appeal in MENA and Turkey.