Sony Pictures Television is expanding its unscripted footprint in a big way. The TV studio has signed an agreement to acquire independent nonfiction production company Industrial Media whose portfolio includes such series as American Idol, 90 Day Fiancé, Indian Matchmaking, Selena+Chef and So You Think You Can Dance. Upon closing, Sony Pictures will acquire a majority controlling interest in Industrial Media based on a purchase price which values the company at $350M. Sony’s stake is believed to be close to 100%, valuing the deal at more than $300M. (The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions, including regulatory approvals.)
Industrial Media CEO and founder & CEO of IPC, Eli Holzman, will join SPT as President of Nonfiction Entertainment upon closing, reporting to Ravi Ahuja, Chairman of Global Television Studios and SPE Corporate Development. Holzman’s longtime producing partner, Industrial Media President and Co-Founder & President of IPC, Aaron Saidman, will join the company as Co-President, Nonfiction Entertainment, reporting to Holzman. In these roles, Holzman and Saidman will oversee day-to-day operations of SPT Nonfiction.
The new Game Show production division will led by longtime SPT executive Suzanne Prete, who currently oversees Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!. She also will report to Ahuja.
Holly Jacobs, who led SPT’s unscripted department as EVP Alternative and Syndicated Programming, will help with the transition before segueing to an overall deal with the studio as an independent producer.
Michael Davies’ Embassy Row, which is behind long-running ABC hit Shark Tank, will remain a standalone entity within SPT.
Industrial Media’s portfolio of labels includes 19 Entertainment, B17 Entertainment, House of NonFiction, Sharp Entertainment, The Intellectual Property Corporation (IPC), This Machine Filmworks, This Radicle Act, and Trilogy Films. Industrial Media companies produce over 100 programs, including the hit 90 Day Fiancé franchise for TLC, Indian Matchmaking for Netflix, the GLAAD Media Award winning We’re Here for HBO, The Curse of Von Dutch and The D’Amelio Show for Hulu, Secrets of Playboy for A&E, Selena+Chef and Craftopia for HBO Max, So You Think You Can Dance for Fox, and American Idol for ABC (which 19 Entertainment co-produces).
In addition to cash flow and library titles, the acquisition adds size and expanded capabilities to SPT’s nonfiction operation. Collectively, the Industrial Media group has approximately 100 employees in Los Angeles, New York and Atlanta, producing multi-platform programming across a variety of genres, including the documentary, music competition and reality categories.
“At SPT our focus is on leadership and quality in growing areas of television, and nonfiction content makes up a significant share of TV viewing,” Ahuja said. “Acquiring Industrial Media gives us scale and expertise that nicely complements our current TV production businesses. Eli, Aaron and their talented group of producers have consistently succeeded with high-quality series and documentaries. We can’t wait to get to work with them.”
Since Holzman and Saidman took the lead at Industrial Media three years ago, the company has nearly doubled in size. The company’s portfolio of brands is run by such creatives as Matt Sharp, CEO and Founder of Sharp Entertainment (TLC’s 90 Day Fiancé franchise, Travel Channel’s Man V. Food); RJ Cutler, President, This Machine Filmworks (Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry on Apple TV+); Brien Meagher and Rhett Bachner, Founders of B17 Entertainment (Chasing the Cure, Craftopia, Thanks a Million); filmmaker Dawn Porter, Founder of Trilogy Films (director and executive producer of the mental health documentary series The Me You Can’t See alongside Oprah Winfrey and Prince Harry); filmmaker Alex Stapleton, founder of House of NonFiction (docu-series Pride for FX); and actor, director and producer Don Cheadle, whose production company This Radicle Act, focuses on creating TV and film content for all platforms.
“This is the most exciting time in the nonfiction business with more opportunity and more content being made than at any other period in the history of the genre,” Holzman and Saidman said in a joint statement. “At Industrial, we have assembled some of our industry’s most sought-after storytellers. And now we have partnered with a leading independent supplier to the global film and television marketplace. Our ambition in working with Tony, Ravi and the Sony Pictures Television team is to supercharge our growth, amplify our ability to attract the very best talent both in front of and behind the camera, and to continue pushing the boundaries of the medium.”
The acquisition by Sony TV caps the comeback of once-embattled Core, which filed for bankruptcy in 2016 with nearly $400 million of debt. Crestview Partners and funds and accounts managed by BlackRock acquiring Core Media Group in 2016, with UTA subsequently taking a stake in the company and advising on its turnaround. The agency helped relaunch American Idol on ABC, which was the first major booster to the company’s financial prospects.
Then in 2018, Core acquired The Intellectual Property Corporation with its founders Eli Holzman and Aaron Saidman appointed CEO and President, respectively, and the company was renamed Industrial Media. Since then, Industrial Media’s revenue and profits have taken off.
“We set out to grow Industrial Media into a preeminent television production entity and we are thrilled that Sony Pictures Television saw the value in the tremendous brand we have built,” Crestview Partners’ Co-President Brian Cassidy, BlackRock’s director Jeff Gordon, and UTA CEO Jeremy Zimmer said in a joint statement. “We are extremely proud of Eli Holzman, Aaron Saidman, Matt Sharp, and Dennis Miller. Their creative energy and astute business acumen have turned Industrial Media into a major content supplier. Sony is the perfect home for Industrial Media and we look forward to seeing it continue to flourish as Sony Pictures Television Nonfiction.”
Prete will add other game shows produced by SPT to her oversight of Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! in her new role as EVP of the newly formed Game Show Production division. Prete and her team will focus on developing and producing new game show content, as well as continuing to manage the Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune franchises.
Prete joined SPT in 1995. She most recently served as EVP, Business & Strategy, overseeing the business operations of Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune. Prior to this role, she was SVP of Global Licensing & Brand Management for the two iconic game shows. Notably, Prete was responsible for licensing the game show’s IP to IGT Slots, resulting in great success within the lottery, slot machine, and online gaming spaces.
Under her overall deal, Holly Jacobs will develop and executive produce original programming for the studio and continue to support SPT shows currently in production. Since establishing the studio’s alternative programming division 15 years ago, Jacobs and her team have produced long-running shows including the Emmy-winning series Shark Tank and The Dr. Oz Show, The $100,000 Pyramid, as well as original series Murder House Flip and Men in Kilts, and primetime specials Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time, Celebrity Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! National College Championship.
In addition to Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!, SPT’s portfolio of syndicated programming that had been overseen by Jacobs includes talker The Good Dish, which recently replaced veteran Dr. Oz Show. Who will oversee that going forward is TBD.
“Suzanne has done a fantastic job at Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! and I have every confidence in her taking on this expanded role with game shows at the studio,” Ahuja said. “Holly and her team have built a respected alternative and syndicated programming business over the years, creating shows that have become part of the national Zeitgeist. We look forward to continuing to produce these important programs and creating exciting new series with Holly in the future.”
Moelis & Company was a Financial Advisor to Industrial Media in the transaction.