Talpa makes its Voice heard
By Kate Bulkley
For Broadcast March 01, 2012
De Mol vehicle is repositioning for dominance, says Kate Bulkley.
Later this month, The Voice comes to the UK and – if success in the US is any guide – it will be the next big singing competition.
It hit all the right notes in the States, where 37 million viewers watched the second series premiere (okay, the lead-in was the Superbowl), and it has taken Holland by storm. It began in France and is set to arrive in many more markets, including Australia and Spain, in the near future.
In short, The Voice is soaring – which is great news for Big Brother creator John de Mol.
The Voice is owned by Talpa Media, the company De Mol set up after he sold Endemol. The Talpa model has been based on partnerships, where De Mol develops a programme idea, tests it in Holland, and sells it to international broadcasters. He then works with a designated producer in that particular country to get it made.
So Talpa works with Shine in France and Australia, with Axel Springer’s Schwartzkopff in Germany and with Boomerang TV in Spain. It’s a model with low capital risk for Talpa and a good upside from the shared production fee – and it’s nice and neat.
In the US and UK TV markets, Talpa has worked with Warner Bros, for the production of The Voice, which in the UK is being made by Warner-owned Shed Media’s Wall to Wall. In the US, The Voice is made by Warner Horizon Television, part of Warner Bros, along with Mark Burnett Productions for NBC.
But with The Voice being such a smash hit, Talpa is looking to change its spots and is waving goodbye to Warner Bros and saying hello to either acquiring an indie or setting up its own shop in both the UK and US.
That could mean Talpa begins making The Voice itself, if it goes beyond two series, which is the duration of the production deal, according to UK sources. In fact, the formal deal between Warner Bros and Talpa appears to have ended last year, and the deal for The Voice was really a hangover from that.
That De Mol wants to start making his own programmes again in these key markets is no real surprise, given his aspirations to own UK production assets in the past. Remember when De Mol’s investment vehicle Cyrte Investments owned a stake in RDF, prior to it being rolled into Zodiak Media?
De Mol is also looking to leverage the success of The Voice, predicting that the hit programme will have up to 10 million Facebook followers by the end of the year.
Talpa executives see a future where the company becomes expert at the integration of brands, advertising, platforms and creative ideas as a way to build value.
It began its blueprint for change last year when it bought 33% of SBS, the owner of TV channels SBS 6, Net 5 and Veronica, which represent 27% of the Dutch advertising market and had net 2012 sales of €316m (£268m). Earlier this year, Talpa purchased the biggest Dutch commercial radio station, Radio 538, from RTL.
With a hit global format on its hands, and estimated 2012 free cash flow (EBITDA) of €30m (£25m), Talpa looks like it will be calling the tune for some time to come.