Thursday, January 12, 2017

Viacom Acquires Minority Stake in Israeli TV Company Ananey

Viacom's Viacom International Media Networks (VIMN) unit announced on Thursday that it has acquired a minority stake in Ananey Communications Group, an Israeli pay TV channel provider and content producer.

Financial terms and the size of the stake weren't disclosed. An analyst estimated the price tag at below $10 million. Under the terms of the deal, Viacom has an option to acquire a controlling stake in Ananey in the future.

VIMN Senior Vice President, General Manager for Central and Eastern Europe and Israel, Bartosz Witak has joined the board of Ananey.

VIMN and Ananey are long-standing business partners in Israel, where Ananey licenses or represents Viacom’s global brands, including Nickelodeon, Nick Jr., MTV and Comedy Central, and represents Viacom’s programming sales and consumer products business. It also operates seven channels in its own right.

Under the partnership, Nickelodeon has become Israel's No. 1 children's channel (ahead of Arutz HaYeladim, the local Hebrew-language kids content portal) and, alongside Nick Jr., reaches 49 percent of the youth audience "due in large part to Ananey’s original local productions for kids and teens," the partners said.

Ananey also develops television formats and programs for both Israel and international TV markets, including Street Food Around The World, a food and travel show, The Hood (locally titled שכונה), a daily teen drama and The Green Project, a sketch show. One of Ananey's flagship productions is its daily teen drama The Greenhouse (locally titled החממה), which has delivered record ratings for Nickelodeon in Israel (and is a NickALive! favourite!). The shows first season also aired on Nickelodeon UK and Ireland with English dubbing in 2014, and Netflix has struck a deal to create an English-language remake, set to be released later this year.

The Greenhouse theme song.

Ananey also produces digital and interactive content and applications, including the SpongeBob Master mobile app that is available in Israel and Hungary and is expected to launch in the U.K. later this year.

The move is bound to bring further diversity to the pay-TV market in Israel, which has seen rapid growth in recent years. Since the early 2000s, the pay-TV market here has been divided evenly between HOT cable and YES satellite, with nearly all local viewers choosing one or the other as a subscription service to access international content. But with Netflix now available in Israel, plus the introduction of Cellcom TV, a VOD and streaming service managed by one of Israel’s major telecommunications networks, competition is on the rise.

"This deal will deepen our partnership with Ananey, which has delivered success for both companies over many years," said David Lynn, newly named President and CEO of VIMN. "We are delighted to cement our strong position in this valuable pay TV market and pursue new opportunities with a leading content producer in one of the most dynamic production sectors internationally. We have confidence that the Ananey team will continue to excel in the local and international market and we are excited about what the future will bring."

Udi Miron, founder and chairman of Ananey, said he expected the new partnership with Viacom to further shake up the market, adding: "This partnership with Viacom is testimony to the strength and creativity of Ananey Communications Group. After years of successfully representing Viacom in Israel, we are honored to take this partnership one step further; we believe together we will achieve even greater success in Israel and internationally. We look forward to working with Viacom to create new horizons for the traditional pay TV market and for the dynamic digital world and leveraging the strong Israeli startup market to advance our shared digital vision. I want to thank Viacom for this vote of confidence in our abilities and the team at Ananey, led by Orly Atlas-Katz, for everything they have achieved and all their hard work"

Viacom CEO Bob Bakish is the former CEO of VIMN and is known for understanding international markets and opportunities.

Sources: The Hollywood Reporter, Deadline Hollywood, Variety, TBI Vision, Digital TV Europe, Broadband TV News.
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