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Blue Ant Media acquires Racat Group in effort to expand globally

Blue Ant co-founder and CEO Michael MacMillan says the acquisition ‘materially increases our content-creating ability, and increases our presence in Asia-Pacific.’

JENNIFER ROBERTS/The Globe and Mail

As it looks to produce more video content and to expand internationally, Toronto-based Blue Ant Media has acquired Sydney, Australia-based media company Racat Group.

The deal gives Blue Ant new production companies based in the Asia-Pacific region, as well as TV networks in Asia and Latin America, and a mobile game developer. And it expands Blue Ant's existing focus on reality TV, in particular nature and wildlife programming.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. The acquisition doubles Blue Ant's employee count from roughly 200 (70 of them based internationally) to roughly 400 – the majority of whom are now based overseas. Including the acquisition, Blue Ant's annual revenue will reach $200-million to $250-million, the private company said, the significant majority of which will come from international sources. Blue Ant did not disclose exact numbers for its annual revenue prior to the deal.

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Reflecting its growing focus, Blue Ant is also creating a new role: CEO of kids and global networks, which will be held by Racat consultant Ward Platt.

"We all know that the international media market has changed significantly, primarily due to the Internet but also other factors. It's really caused the world to go from an economy of scarcity to one of abundance," said Blue Ant co-founder and CEO Michael MacMillan. "It's broken down geographical boundaries, and allowed viewers to make way more choices than before. In that context, the strategic priority for Blue Ant is to significantly increase our ability to be a creator, producer and owner of content, especially in genres and categories that we think will travel well and thrive in this splintered media world."

The appeal of nature and wildlife programming in particular, Mr. MacMillan said, is that the programs have widespread appeal and are easily translated into multiple versions for a variety of global markets. Blue Ant has also made investments into children's programming in the past but wants to do more.

Blue Ant already produces and distributes TV and online video content, as well as operating TV channels (and accompanying websites and online streaming video) such as 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).

The acquisition will add three more production companies, which have made TV shows for Discovery International, National Geographic, PBS, ABC and others: Dunedin, N.Z.-based NHNZ, specializes in natural history and other documentary and reality programs, including the new co-produced series Big Pacific; Singapore-based Beach House Pictures produces reality and entertainment shows including Asia's Next Top Model and others spanning the travel, food, lifestyle genres, as well as children's programming; and Sydney-based Northern Pictures produces content focused on wildlife and social issues, as well as children's nature programming.

The purchase of Racat also includes 70 per cent of broadcaster ZooMoo Networks, a partnership with AT&T's DirecTV Latin America, which has channels across Latin America and Asia, as well as a gaming app for kids. And it gives Blue Ant the mobile game developer Runaway Play, which creates games with a wildlife and nature theme.

"This materially increases our content-creating ability, and increases our presence in Asia-Pacific," Mr. MacMillan said. "In the turbulent media space we find ourselves in now … you want to be in the business of owning the content and not just the shelf space on which that content is placed."

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