Toronto-based CanWest Entertainment will pay more than $100m for the international television distribution assets of Endemol Entertainment, the Dutch media company recently purchased by Spain's Telefonica.

The deal includes the Endemol subsidiary's 600-hour programme library and distribution pacts with Alliance Atlantis, Hearst Entertainment, Lions Gate Films and Trimark Pictures. CanWest, which also assumes the existing acquisition commitments, gets a first look at all-rights deals for television production from Telefonica-controlled Endemol.

Jay Firestone, chairman and CEO of CanWest Entertainment told Screendaily, "[the] Endemol [subsidiary] was a neck-and-neck competitor so it's a complement to our business. They also have a significant library of TV movies and mini-series, which is what we want to build on." He said the above distribution agreements varied in scope and were "primarily European" and "fairly significant". "Our focus," he added, "is totally international distribution."

Moreover, Firestone said the acquisition furthers the international strategy of parent company CanWest Global Communications, which controls broadcast assets in Australia, New Zealand and Ireland. "As we expand internationally there will be a lot of benefits to controlling international rights. In North America, we talk about 'the 100 channel universe' but in most territories there are more like four or five channels. CanWest will be expanding into other territories, either buying channels outright or interest in channels. If you're starting up a sixth channel, you're a lot better off if you own the international rights."

Earlier this month, CanWest realised a long-term goal to create a national television network in Canada. CanWest Global CEO Leonard Asper has said that once that objective was achieved, international activity would take centre stage.

The subsidiary will be rolled into CanWest Entertainment's international television distribution arm, Fireworks International, based in London. It boosts the overall library to more than 1,200 hours. A CanWest release says the acquisition will vault the company into "first place as Canada's premier television distribution company". Asked to respond to the claim, Alliance Atlantis Entertainment president Peter Sussman told Screendaily, "We have about 15,000 hours."