The problem with proclaiming one company the “last great independent” in its category is that the next one might be close behind, ready to rabbit punch. In this case, Canadian television ten years ago could not have seen the growth of Entertainment One, who acquired Force Four Entertainment on August 28, 2014. Those who watch Saving Hope
, Call Me Fitz
and/or Rookie Blue
watch an eOne show. eOne is a major home entertainment company in Canada, possibly the
independent in this country.
I will update this article to correct errors, and as further acquisitions happen. While I’m ambivalent about eOne – I respect its television division, hate its aggressive acquisition strategy, and lament that it’s the only home entertainment company as active as it is in the Canadian TV-on-DVD market – I think it’s important to chart eOne’s growth. Given its summer 2014 run obtaining a film/home entertainment distributor and two production companies, eOne’s been on a tear lately.
I realize the company used E1 as shorthand, before adopting the current eOne branding. I call the company eOne for convenience.
For readers confused by the article’s title, I paraphrase Paul Heyman’s current catchphrase; eOne has distributed WWE Home Video titles for years. Those WWE Home Video titles made me jump to my feet, took my breath away, and left me in amazement!
1973: Vito Ierullo and Don Ierullo found Records on Wheels Limited, with a focus on retail sales of recorded music (initially from a bus, hence the name). By the late 1970s, ROW Limited/ROW Entertainment expands into music distribution, and expands into home entertainment by the 1980s/1990s.
2001(?): ROW Entertainment acquires CD Plus’ assets. The CD Plus site still does business, as Play Stop. Darren Throop comes to ROW Entertainment from CD Plus; he is eOne’s current chief executive officer.
November 2003: ROW Entertainment first lists on the Toronto Stock Exchange, as ROW Entertainment Income Fund.
August 1, 2004: ROW Entertainment acquires Video One Canada Limited, a home entertainment distributor, from Standard Broadcasting Corporation Limited. The deal is worth CAD$72.4 million.
May 17, 2005: ROW Entertainment acquires KOCH Entertainment, a music and home entertainment distributor, for USD$80 million. By this time, ROW Entertainment rebrands as Entertainment One.
May 31, 2005: Entertainment One buys the assets of wholesaler Reel Choice Video Limited for CAD$1.9 million.
March 29, 2007: London, United Kingdom firm Marwyn Investment Management LLP takes over Entertainment One for CAD$188 million. The deal includes CAD$68 million in assumed debt. As a result of the takeover, Entertainment One gains a listing on London Stock Exchange’s Alternative Investment Market, and loses its listing on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
June 14, 2007: Entertainment One acquires UK television/home entertainment distributor Contender Limited, for GBP£49.4 million.
August 20, 2007: Entertainment One acquires Seville Entertainment Inc., a theatrical, television and home entertainment distributor/international sales agent. The Seville name is eventually retired in favour of eOne Films.
September 20, 2007: Entertainment One signs a multi-territory (i.e., Canada and the United Kingdom) all-rights agreement with Summit Entertainment. Why is this important? Three words: the Twilight saga. Summit is now a subsidiary of Lionsgate; Lionsgate is itself a former Canadian company.
September 24, 2008: For CAD$51.5 million, Entertainment One acquires film/television production companies Barna-Alper Productions Inc. and Blueprint Entertainment Corporation, and international film/television distributor and international sales agent Oasis Pictures Inc. The deals also include Maximum Film Distribution Inc. and Maximum Film International Inc., which acquired Canadian rights for international films.
For Canadian television, this is the most important move. It builds the backbone of eOne’s television production, distribution and sales arm. By 2009, Barna-Alper, Blueprint, and Oasis fold into eOne Television.
September 29, 2008: Entertainment One attempts a reverse takeover of DHX Media, in a CAD$68 million deal. The intention of the reverse takeover is to restore eOne’s spot on the Toronto Stock Exchange, as well as exploit DHX Media’s back catalog. The deal falls through on December 12, 2008, due to DHX Media’s share price losing almost half its value in the ensuing two and a half months.
April 12, 2011: Entertainment One purchases Australia company Hopscotch Group’s distribution and home entertainment divisions for GBP£12.9 million.
November 2, 2011: Entertainment One agrees to take over Vivendi Entertainment’s Canadian home entertainment distribution business; the takeover goes into effect January 1, 2012.
January 8, 2013: Entertainment One acquires the assets of Alliance Films Holdings Inc. for CAD$225 million. Alliance Films produced and distributed films; it was also a major Canadian home entertainment distributor. Alliance Films also held Canadian rights to select television content produced by predecessor company Alliance Atlantis.
March 26, 2014: Seville International reactivates as Entertainment One’s independent/arthouse film distribution and international sales division.
June 2, 2014: Entertainment One acquires Phase 4 Films, a film and home entertainment distributor. Phase 4 Films also develops television programs with Take 5 Productions. The Phase 4 Films deal includes children’s home entertainment subsidiary Kaboom! Entertainment. Terms of the deal are not yet disclosed.
July 17, 2014: Entertainment One acquires Paperny Entertainment, the film/television production company behind Food Network Canada’s Chopped Canada, for CAD$29 million.
August 28, 2014: Entertainment One acquires Force Four Entertainment, the film/television production company behind City’s Seed and The Bachelor Canada, and National Geographic Channel’s Border Security: Canada’s Front Line. Terms of the deal are not yet disclosed.