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ITV buys Hatfields & McCoys indie

ITV has acquired its third American indie, paying $30m (£19m) for a controlling stake in Hatfields & McCoys producer Thinkfactory Media.

The broadcaster has bought a 65% of the US indie and has a “put and call option” to buy up the remainder of the company, which can be excercised after three years. Any further payments will be linked to the performance of the company.

LA-based Thinkfactory was founded by Leslie Greif and is known for creating programming in a wide-range of genres, from features and mini-series to unscripted series, docs and music specials.

The deal, brokered by About Corporate Finance, comes hot on the heels of other recent acquisitions for ITV, including last month’s $25m (£16m) investment for a 60% stake of Cake Boss producer High Noon and April’s acquisition of UK producer The Garden, for which it paid £18m in cash with an unstipulated further cash payment over the next five years.

In December, ITV acquired a 61.5% stake in fact-ent specialist Gurney Productions, the indie behind A&E’s reality hit Duck Dynasty, for $40m (£24.5m).

This latest deal marks the first time ITVS has opted for a multi-genre producer in the US rather than a reality and entertainment specialist.

Hatfields & McCoys was a breakout hit for the History channel in the US, with over 17m viewers tuning in to the premiere. The Kevin Costner-fronted series is the highest-rated mini-series on cable since 1998 and spawned a two-hour documentary on the history of the Hatfields & McCoys, as well as an hour-long behind the scenes show.

Thinkfactory has produced a raft of content for other major cable networks including A&E, Lifetime, TLC and VH1. The indie is currently in production on the seventh season of Gene Simmons Family Jewels for A&E and Prank My Mom for Lifetime, as well as the recently announced R&B Divas for TVOne.

Greif had been attempting to get Hatfield & McCoys away for over 30 years and originally had Burt Reynolds attached to star before persuading History to order it. The producer, who also created Chuck Norris vehicle Walker, Texas Ranger with Paul Haggis, was hoping to follow up the western hit with Texas Rising, a series focusing on Texas law enforcement, with the US cable network.

It is the sixth ITV indie acquisition in less than a year, with others including So Television and Finnish producer Tarinatalo.

Commenting on the Thinkfactory deal, ITV chief executive Adam Crozier said: “We’re gathering real momentum in building a substantial US presence, which is central to our strategy of creating a strong international content business. The acquisition of Thinkfactory Media is clearly a further significant step forward in achieving that goal.”

Paul Buccieri, president and chief executive of ITVS America, added that Thinkfactory has become “one of the most admired” producers in the industry. “Leslie can effortlessly flow between producing scripted and reality shows - a skill increasingly admired by cable TV buyers,” he said.

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