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SPP bought by Discovery & Liberty Global

South Pacific Pictures Chair John Barnett reckons the sale of SPP owner All3Media to a new joint venture comprising Discovery and Liberty Global, announced earlier today NZ time, can deliver for the local company.

It’s fair to say that the international reporting of the sale was far more concerned with the NZ$1.1 billion price tag (GBP550 million) and the implications for some of the UK companies under legislation controlling commissioning by the BBC than with what it might mean in New Zealand.

Here, however, the impact could have been significant if SPP’s new owners were planning changes. In the UK, there are many players. In NZ, SPP has been for some time the biggest producer of TV drama.

The important message, not just for SPP but for other All3Media companies, is that it’s “business as usual”. That line was pushed in the media release announcing the sale, when Discovery and Liberty Global stated All3Media would continue to operate independently. All3 and its operating companies, including South Pacific Pictures, will continue to retain their names, operating status and reporting procedures to ALL3 UK

“At first blush, it looks like a hell of a good deal,” Barnett said after the sale was announced. “We’re quite excited by it.”

In time, it might become better than business as usual.

Discovery and Liberty are in the content delivery business not the content production business. That means three things for the All3 companies.

First up, and most important for SPP, the new owners “are not a brand they’re looking to subsume us into”.

Secondly, channels need content – which is something All3Media’s collection of production companies have in spades. Discovery is, according to itself, “the world’s #1 pay-TV programmer reaching 2.5 billion cumulative subscribers in more than 220 countries and territories … on more than 200 television networks”.

That represents an awful lot of air time to fill. Barnett expects that today’s sale will give SPP, and other All3Media companies, new opportunities to place content for second run. Those new sales will represent new income, and that’s got to be good.

Thirdly, there’s a possibility that SPP will have better access to Discovery Communications channels if it wants to pitch ideas.

It’s fair to say there are other companies in the All3Media stable who are far more focused on factual programming than SPP is, and factual is certainly the bulk of what Discovery does. But SPP has travelled successfully into that territory with programmes including High Country Rescue, Rivers and Wild Coasts with Craig Potton – all of which would comfortably find homes on Discovery channels.

Although the sale of All3Media was announced today, there are a number of regulatory hoops to jump through – mostly in the UK and Europe. The sale is expected to be finalised between July and September.

The Discovery/Liberty Global media release is here.

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