August 28, 2014

Article | The ones behind the One in Entertainment One

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, Haven, Bitten, 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.

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August 25, 2014

Article | Thoughts on Adam Hines’ Canadaland appearance

Some thoughts on the Canadaland podcast with Adam Hines. Hines is one half of the now-defunct Guys With Pencils podcast, which he records with Andrew Murray. I realize this article is two weeks late, yet it’s still not as late as Teletoon’s 2014-15 fall schedule announcement. Just sayin’.


In the intro to this Canadaland episode, Jesse Brown mentions John Kricfalusi, Norman McLaren, and NFB shorts. Brown ignores Danny Antonucci, whose Cartoon Network show Ed, Edd n Eddy was spearheaded by Antonucci’s a.k.a. Cartoon in Vancouver, and commissioned by Cartoon Network. Granted, Brown admits he doesn’t know much about how the commercial animation business works, but it’s odd to ignore the rare Canadian-made television show commissioned by an American channel – the normal procedure for American television is to acquire a Canadian show through the production company (see: DHX Media’s Supernoobs). Ed, Edd n Eddy managed sixty-nine episodes and the Ed, Edd n Eddy’s Big Picture Show television film. Ed, Edd n Eddy is also the last major North American animated television series to switch from cel animation to digital ink-and-paint.

Ed, Edd n Eddy was the last of what Cartoon Network terms the Cartoon Cartoons when it ended in 2009. Unfortunately, as Ed, Edd n Eddy was commissioned by an American channel, the show isn’t considered Canadian by the Canadian Audio-Visual Certification Office. It’s a strange quirk of the Canadian television business. Had the show gone through the usual Canadian channels (YTV, Family Channel, Teletoon), the show would have triggered fund money, but it’s hard to say whether Ed, Edd n Eddy would have earned the creative control Cartoon Network gave it. Hell, it was a risk to give Antonucci a children’s show after a.k.a. Cartoon made The Brothers Grunt for MTV in 1994; those who have seen The Brothers Grunt know what I’m talking about.


When people mention “shitty Flash cartoons,” they refer to vector-based animation that is reliant on computer-based inbetweening, which Hines explains to Brown. Canadian broadcasters greenlight a lot of these type cartoons – Total Drama, Numb Chucks, Rocket Monkeys, etc. A reason these shows exist is to increase the available amount of content in a company’s catalog. Corus and DHX Media own cable properties (Corus with Teletoon, Treehouse and YTV; DHX Media with Family Channel), which gives them an edge over independent Canadian animation companies. Corus also owns animation studio Nelvana and animation software company Toon Boom, while DHX Media owns what used to be Studio B Productions.

If there’s a current need to knock out five times the amount of content compared to Warner Bros. Animation/Warner Animation Group (a company Hines mentions in the podcast), it’s because Time Warner owns the Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies and MGM cartoon libraries, the Hanna-Barbera and select Ruby-Spears assets, Cartoon Network, and the library of animated series/films based on DC Entertainment properties. The legwork for what is currently Time Warner began in 1967, when Kinney National Services bought National Periodical Publications (i.e., DC Comics); Warner Bros./Seven Arts joined the conglomerate in 1969. Even then, Kinney’s objective was to diversify beyond parking lots, funeral homes, cleaning firms, and wood flooring. Amassing a content library was nowhere near as important as it is now.

Nelvana’s animation catalog only dates back to the early 1970s. DHX Media has a large animation catalog due to the company being a series of mergers and acquisitions; 9 Story Entertainment is in the process of building its own sizable catalog. It doesn’t matter about a show’s quality so much as if the reruns can still sell. Canadian television animation is a producer’s market; Corus and DHX Media are shrewd enough to have vertically integrated models, while everyone else is in the business to survive.


The question of “why doesn’t Canada have its own Adventure Time?” is a cheat. Adventure Time began as a short on Nicktoons Network; two pitches by show producer Frederator Studios to turn Adventure Time into a Nicktoons series were rejected. It took a commitment by Cartoon Network, and a major retool on Pendleton Ward’s part, for the show to become what it currently is. It’s hard for America to build its own Adventure Time, never mind Canada. That’s not to say Canadian companies can’t make their own Adventure Time. Bite on Mondo is a start. Blue Ant Media wants to build Bite into a legitimate competitor to Bell Media’s Comedy Network, while affiliating itself with an American company it might want to acquire a few years down the road. In today’s corporate culture, BoM is as shrewd a business decision as any.


A weird thing about this episode of Canadaland is that it doesn’t mention Guys With Pencils’ recent decision to shut down its podcast. I’m not sure if the interviews are banked beforehand, and if they are, for how long. I just find it an odd thing to omit. To be fair, I’m surprised Canadaland even talks about Canadian animation, or else this article wouldn’t exist.

Also, The Raccoons is not the apex of anything.

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August 29, 2011

Nostalgia (Not Really) | URBMN ‘Celebrates’ 75 Years of CBC!, Part One

Over at Google+, I’ve given CBC-related items some attention.  CBC has a (quite boring) 75th anniversary site.  The problem with official CBC functions like this is the sanitized history – here’s Mr. Dressup, here’s Wojeck, hello Peter Gzowski, and so on.

I hope to counteract this state of boredom.  Through the magic of flash video sites and recorded media, CBC’s true history is revealed.  It’s a history full of failed shows, forgotten culture, ignored culture (CBC has a lot of the third option), and great shows CBC did nothing with.  It’s the history CBC would rather people forget.  CBC wants people to forget.

Here are the first thirteen entries in my ongoing effort to provide a better overview of CBC’s 75th anniversary than an episode of Hangin’ In followed by an episode of The Beachcombers.  Newer Google+ compilations will be posted on URBMN every so often.  Check the URBMN Google+ page daily for new entries, as URBMN ‘Celebrates’ 75 Years of CBC!

By the way, I am not paid to endorse the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation like this.  If I was, I’d mention something about Jian Ghomeshi, then take note of a “hilarious” Ha!ifax Comedy Festival compilation.  HFC has a Gemini nomination for Best Comedy Series or Program this year, don’t you know?  It won’t win over Living in Your Car or Call Me Fitz, but I’m sure the nomination doesn’t have anything to do with CBC wresting the Gemini telecast from Shaw Media’s clammy hands.  I’m not cynical.

August 30, 2011: CBC Late Night opening
August 29, 2011: 1978 CBC promos
August 28, 2011: The CFL on CBC, 1977
August 27, 2011: 1979 CBC promos
August 26, 2011: Flappers
August 25, 2011: What It’s Like Being Alone
August 24, 2011: 1987 CBC promos
August 23, 2011: The Odyssey
August 22, 2011: Town Beat!
August 21, 2011: Three Dead Trolls in a Baggie
August 20, 2011: The S and M Comic Book
August 19, 2011: The Tea Party on Friday Night! with Ralph Benmergui
August 18, 2011: Double Up

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July 16, 2011

Interview | Kenny Hotz, Kenny Hotz’s Triumph of the Will

This is another first for URBMN: YOUTUBE!  Granted, this is due to Posterous not liking big MP3 files, but what can you do.  Kenny Hotz’s Triumph of the Will debuts Friday, July 22, 2011 at 10:00 PM ET, on Action.  I think I like my interviewing skills in this piece even less than the Yannick Bisson interview.


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June 5, 2011

Interview | Fred Ewanuick, Dan for Mayor

Dan for Mayor‘s second season – which premiered Sunday, June 5 at 7:30 PM ET – mirrors Dan Phillips’ run for the mayorship of Wessex, Ontario.  Dan didn’t really “win” the election so much as survive it.  Dan for Mayor‘s second season is the result of an almost-across-the-board renewal of CTV’s 2010-11 output, as DfM‘s mid-season decline didn’t do the show any favours.

Fred Ewanuick is a survivor himself.  The Vancouver native is best known for playing Hank Yarbo on Corner Gas (2004-09.)  For three seasons, he was Nick Papathanasiou on CTV’s Robson Arms (2005-08.)  Regardless of what one thinks of Dan for Mayorthe show splitting off into “good” and “shit” camps, with little inbetween – Ewanuick deserves his Dan for Mayor starring role.  Given his early background and acting career, Ewanuick’s taken the long road to television infamy.

Fred Ewanuick interview

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June 1, 2011

Interview | Yannick Bisson, Murdoch Mysteries

This is a first for URBMN: AUDIO!  Yes, you get to hear me ask four questions to Murdoch Mysteries‘ Yannick Bisson.  Bisson plays title character William Murdoch, a detective in 1890s Toronto using primitive forensic science to solve his cases.  Murdoch Mysteries has recently been renewed for a fifth season, the fourth season premiering on CityTV Tuesday, June 7 at 9:00 PM ET/PT, 8:00 PM MT/CT.

Link to the MP3 (Posterous)

Admittedly, I’m out of my element here.  The interview isn’t as in-depth as I’d like.  The whole piece is four minutes long, and edited within three hours.  Hey, it’s out, and I get to use the moribund Posterous account again.  I should have more MP3-related fun within two weeks.  In the meantime, enjoy my mumblemouth.

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