China’s Shanghai Media Group Pictures (SMGP) has reached a deal with BBC Worldwide to acquire the rights to the television drama series ‘Doctor Who’. The agreement comes as BBC looks to further expand the franchise’s long-standing fan base.
Developed by Sydney Newman, ‘Doctor Who’ is a science-fiction series that follows a doctor, who travels through time and space in a police box, known as the TARDIS, with a variety of companions. Every now and again, the doctor regenerates in to a new form, which enables the show to continue its run with new plots and talent. The show made its debut on BBC TV on Saturday, Nov. 23 1963. The show often includes real-life elements within its plots; however the network scrapped a reference to terrorism in an episode slated to air June 27, in deference to bombing that occurred at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, on May 22.
SMGP’s agreement with BBC covers seasons one through ten, yet-to-film season 11, and a first look option for seasons 12 through 15, and another first look option for ‘Doctor Who’ spinoffs 'Torchwood' and 'Class'. As a result of the deal, this will be first time that the series’ entire catalog, including future shows, has been licensed to one company in China. The series, however, has been previously available on a variety of digital platforms in China, including Youku, LeTV and SMGP’s linear TV service BesTV. SMGP is the film business unit of Oriental Pearl Group, which is owned by Shanghai Media Group.
“China is going through a time of tremendous growth and rapid market development. Everyone here is curious about popular cultures around the world. At the same time, they want to share their Chinese culture and values,” states SMGP general manager Chen Sijie to The Hollywood Reporter. “’Doctor Who’, with its long television history and iconic place in popular culture, is a great representative of British pop culture. We hope that this partnership with BBC Worldwide will enable both parties, as well as Chinese and British fans to share and exchange ideas and learnings to grow the universe of 'Doctor Who' in China.”
BBC Worldwide is the commercial arm of the British Broadcasting Corp. based in the U.K. The seller distributes media programming to international markets and licenses international versions of its content that are made in other countries. BBC Worldwide oversees a portfolio of television networks, including: BBC America, BBC Entertainment, and BBC Lifestyle.
M&A involving television programming and cable operations have begun to pick up. Recent media deals include: Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc.’s (Nasdaq: SBGI) purchase of Tribune Media Co. (NYSE: TRCO) for about $3.9 billion; media billionaire Rupert Murdoch’s, through his company 21st Century Fox Inc., deal to acquire European pay-TV provider Sky Plc for nearly $14.6 billion; Moore Frères & Company’s completed purchase of Opera TV for its over-the-top (OTT) video streaming software; AMC Networks’ $65 million investment in RLJ Entertainment Inc. (Nasdaq: RLJE), a company backed BET founder Robert L. Johnson; and Walt Disney Co.’s (NYSE: DIS) agreement to buy a stake in the video-streaming unit of MLB Advanced Media called BAMtech.