By Stuart Thomson
Liberty Global-backed Flemish cable operator Telenet has deepened its involvement in the media business by acquiring a 49 per cent stake in production outfit Caviar Group.
Caviar, with bases in Brussels, Antwerp and Mechelen, started out as a purely Flemish production company but has expanded internationally, producing TV programmes, including fiction, and advertising content.
Telenet, which owns channel provider SBS and Woestijnvis in Belgium through its acquisition of De Vijver Media, and has recently taken stakes in Streamz and, along with Mediahuis and Proximus, advertising company Ads & Data, has stated an ambition to develop long-term structural partnerships within the Flemish media sector.
With the acquisition of a stake in Caviar, it has also said it is looking to growth opportunities in media internationally, citing the potential of Flemish media content in the international market and the reality of increasing competitive pressure from international players and declining ad revenue locally.
Caviar produces local Belgian series including Clan, Tabula Rasa, the forthcoming Fuck You Very Very Much and is known for TV formats such as De Code van Coppens, Durf te Vragen and Down The Road.
Internationally, Caviar Group works for advertisers such as Apple, Coca-Cola and Hermes, and has been involved in the production of movies including The Diary of a Teenage Girl, The Rider and Sound of Metal
With Telenet’s minority participation, Caviar Group will continue to function as an independent content studio. The remaining shares remain in the hands of CEO Bert Hamelinck, who is also responsible for fiction, Matthias Coppens (responsible for TV division Roses Are Blue and Michael Sagol, chief talent officer with responsibility for international branded content.
The acquisition of the minority stake is expected to complete on May 1.
“We are very pleased to have found in Telenet a long-term partner that shares our vision. Thinking internationally is part of our DNA. All productions for a Flemish audience are intended for export as well. This is a natural result of the limited Flemish sales market and the saturated local media landscape. We always keep the legal rights to our formats, which leads to co-productions with other countries. We have long believed that local consolidation and centralization, together with a focus on formats that also work abroad, is the way to further growth. Since Caviar is meanwhile an internationally known brand, we must now continue to develop a business model in which local talent can switch between local and foreign projects whenever possible. By embracing Telenet as a partner, we are ideally positioned to be the driving force of the first major Belgian entertainment group in this rapidly changing media landscape and we create opportunities for the local market. Together we can turn the numerous Flemish audiovisual talents into a global brand,” said Hamelinck.
“At Telenet, we were already looking at ways of making local content more profitable beyond the Flemish living rooms via The Park. Woestijnvis is already targeting the Dutch and German markets through joint venture Fabiola. I am convinced that the local top content produced here will be appreciated internationally as well. Caviar’s vision to start from its own strengths and to deploy these locally and internationally instead of copying formats from abroad is something I fully support. This mentality will lead to more local top content for our viewers, more growth for our outstanding local talents and more value for the Flemish market. To succeed optimally, there is a need for strategic partnerships that provide sufficient scale to hold a stronger position with foreign players. The participation in Caviar perfectly fits the bill,” said Telenet CEO John Porter.