Inside Blue Ant’s Racat Group purchase

Raja Khanna on how the Toronto media co aims to be more of a global content player.

Raja KhannaBlue Ant Media’s acquisition of international media company The Racat Group follows through on a goal of the Toronto-based producer, distributor and channel operator to become more of a global content player, according to Raja Khanna, Blue Ant’s CEO of television and digital.

“That means creating and acquiring more content rights globally,” Khanna told Playback‘s sister publication realscreen. “Ultimately, that’s what we have now through this acquisition, on top of our existing production houses in London, Los Angeles and Toronto. We now have access to incredible creative talent and incredible selling talent across Asia-Pacific.

“Our three lines of business – producing, distributing and operating channels – are all growing globally, both organically and through M&A,” Khanna added. “We’re a business now that is over CAD$200 million in revenue and we consider that small on the global stage. We’ve got a long way to go and we want to be way bigger.”

Under the deal, announced early Wednesday, May 24, Blue Ant will take ownership of five commonly owned media production companies and television networks operating out of North and South America, Australia, New Zealand, and South East and Northern Asia.

Included in the purchase is Dunedin, New Zealand-based NHNZ, a company that has, for the last 40 years, specialized in natural history and documentary programming, including the recent five-part docuseries Big Pacific (pictured).

Also purchased are:

  • Singapore-based Beach House Pictures, which has created more than 600 hours of factual and entertainment programming, including Frontier Borneo. The company was recently named to realscreen‘s 2017 Global 100; and
  • Sydney-based Northern Pictures, which licenses factual and documentary content as Life on the Reef and Kakadu to digital and traditional channels throughout Australia and internationally.

Blue Ant will further acquire 70% of international children’s nature broadcaster ZooMoo Networks, a joint venture with AT&T’s DirecTV Latin America, which retains 30% of the business, providing original nature and wildlife content across Latin America and Asia, as well as New Zealand-based indie mobile game developer Runaway Play.

“Those markets in some ways, similar to Canada, support their cultural industries through government sponsorship and investment programs – that is an interesting aspect to this that could piece things together,” Khanna said.

“Ultimately, Blue Ant operates as a pretty decentralized business. These businesses will continue to go on as they have under the same leadership that they’ve had,” he added. “The difference, we hope, will be that we’ll be able to give them access to even more opportunities by partnering them with their now-sister production entities in Toronto, L.A. and London, and also by having a closer relationship with our distribution business. We hope to add value to what they’re already doing but not to change the way they’re run.”

The Canadian company, founded six years ago, will now see 74% of its revenues coming from the international marketplace, with the remaining 26% being brought in locally from Canada.

The acquisition will also nearly double Blue Ant’s roster of employees from approximately 250 to 450 – the majority of whom now work out of overseas offices.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

As a result of Blue Ant’s international growth, the company has named Racat consultant Ward Platt to the newly created post of CEO of kids and global networks.

Effective Sept. 1, Platt will be responsible for bolstering Blue Ant’s global linear and digital channels strategy outside of Canada and New Zealand. Based in Los Angeles, he reports into Khanna.

Platt has previously held COO and CEO roles with National Geographic Partners and Fox International Channels, and National Geographic Channels International, respectively.

Blue Ant Media produces and distributes television and online video content that encompasses factual, fact-ent, short-form digital series and kids programming. The privately held company also operates an international channels business that now includes ZooMoo Networks, Smithsonian Channel Canada, nature and wildlife channels Love Nature and BBC Earth in Canada, HGTV in New Zealand and music channel A.Side (formerly AUX).

From Realscreen