In the first major television acquisition of 2009, Sony Pictures TV has purchased Michael Davies' company Embassy Row.
The deal, which had been in the works for about an year, comes on the heels of Davies' three-year overall pact at SPT that recently came to an end.
It brings Davies -- who started off working for game show pioneer Merv Griffin, whose company had been acquired by Sony -- back on the studio payroll. It also marks a return to the studio system for Davies, who made his mark at Disney/ABC, where he launched Who Wants to Be a Millionaire in 1999 before leaving to become an independent producer.
SPT president Steve Mosko called the Embassy Row buy "the perfect acquisition at the perfect time."
"Michael is an incredibly savvy producer who was an architect of the alternative series business," Mosko said. "He has a unique understanding of the formats and how to make these shows work in network, cable and syndication."
A lot of aspects of Embassy Row's relationship with SPT won't change -- the company will continue to bring international formats to the U.S., create formats to distribute globally and mine the Sony library.
What is different is that "I have a much bigger company behind me with more resources to tap," Davies said.
Also key to the acquisition was SPT's $223 million purchase last summer of Dutch TV production company 2waytraffic, which has a catalog of unscripted formats led by the international format rights to Millionaire.
"It indicates that Sony really believes in the international format business," Davies said. What's more, "Sony is the only company in the format business that is also a technology company, and I can't think of a better brand to go and take these programs through multiplatform distribution than Sony."
With his European roots and his expertise on Millionaire, Brit Davies is expected to lead the charge of exploiting 2waytraffic's properties around the world and building Sony's global format business. (Outside of his deal with Sony, Davies continues to exec produce the U.S. version of Millionaire, which is mulling a prime-time return on ABC, and ABC's WifeSwap.)
While he doesn't own his TV series, Davis, as part of the acquisition, is bringing to Sony the digital assets of Embassy Row that were not part of the overall deal, including the Pepsi-funded POPTUB, a daily entertainment format on YouTube that's syndicated across the Internet.
Embassy Row will remain based on its downtown New York offices. Also staying intact is its 17-member work force led by Davies and the reconstituted executive team of Tammy Johnston, Michael Erlinger and Davies' longtime creative partner, Jen Kelly. Stephanie Masarsky continues to run Embassy Row's digital business, while Madelene Hansson works with Davies on the international side.
Embassy Row, which Davies started as a partnership with Chris Moore and Tera Hanks before going solo in 2005, has two series in production: The Newlywed Game for GSN and Make My Day for TV Land. Additionally, the company is producing six pilots/specials for various broadcast and cable networks, including Fashionality, a pop culture and fashion panel show for Bravo, and Hogs and Heifers, a docu-series for Oxygen.
Through Embassy Row's collaboration with chef Bobby Flay and producer Kim Martin, Rock Shrimp Prods. is producing three series for Food Network, including Grill It! With Bobby Flay and Dear Food Network.
There has been a slew of acquisitions in the reality field, led by Shine Group's buy of Reveille and Endemol USA's purchase of a controlling stake in Cris Abrego and Mark Cronin's 51 Minds. FremantleMedia has been in talks to buy Thom Beers' Original Prods.