How Leonine Studios Reshaped German Film and TV |

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In nan 4 years since roaring to life, Leonine Studios has reshaped Germany’s movie and tv landscape, becoming a starring subordinate successful Europe’s biggest and astir competitory market.

The institution is receiving Variety’s International Achievement successful Film Award astatine nan Cannes Film Festival.

Built by manufacture seasoned Fred Kogel pinch financing from U.S. backstage equity group KKR, Leonine Studios is an intermezo conglomerate that has brought together immoderate of Germany’s astir successful accumulation and distribution companies nether 1 roof.

“I ever wanted to found and create a institution arsenic a location of talents – nan champion group successful nan German business and past internationally – and create a caller institution for nan integer age,” says Kogel, Leonine’s CEO. “That was nan reality down bringing Leonine to life successful 2019 arsenic that was nan first clip that German contented could recreation nan world. That was nan rationale.” 

“It was ever a pity for maine that nan programs, nan productions that I did successful nan past almost each ended astatine nan German, Austrian and Swiss borders because of nan German-language barrier,” adds Kogel, whose agelong profession has seen executive stints astatine broadcasters ZDF and Sat.1, nan erstwhile mighty Kirch Media and Constantin.

“The streamers made it possible,” adds Kogel.

“Dark” Netflix

Indeed, Netflix’s deed subject fabrication thriller “Dark,” produced by Quirin Berg and Max Wiedemann’s W&B Television, showed conscionable really globally successful a German bid could be. Modern audiences are progressively unfastened to world programs arsenic agelong arsenic they are of bully quality, he stresses.

Kogel realized his imagination of forming a caller endeavor by acquiring W&B Television and sister institution Wiedemann & Berg Film on pinch Herbert Kloiber’s Tele München Gruppe, RTL distribution patient Universum Film and intermezo shaper I&U TV.

Wiedemann & Berg – 1 of nan fewer German accumulation companies pinch a proven way grounds successful making internationally successful premium productions – was a cardinal element. Berg and Wiedemann agreed to beryllium portion of nan task aft discussing nan task pinch Kogel. 

Creating nan caller conglomerate from scratch was important for Kogel. A CEO of an existing institution is ever restricted by tight structures, he explains. Building Leonine arsenic a greenfield task gave him nan state to create nan institution he wanted.

It was for illustration putting a puzzle together, Kogel explains, noting that he had a very strategical thought from nan outset: an integrated production, distribution and licensing institution that would nutrient home and world theatrical features, high-end bid and scripted shows for streamers and broadcasters arsenic good arsenic actual productions and intermezo formats.

Kogel sounded his thought to Philipp Freise, KKR partner and co-head of European backstage equity, who he has known for years.  

“I would very overmuch for illustration to spot KKR arsenic a semipermanent partner for Leonine because, to beryllium very honest, for maine personally, KKR is nan champion partner I’ve ever had, and I mean that from my bosom because it’s very entrepreneurial.

“I really for illustration nan backstage equity situation, which happened to maine very precocious successful my life, but it brings a batch of fun. We meet nan targets truthful KKR lets america do our point and they are very supportive.”

Kogel is aware, however, that nan narration pinch KKR will not past forever. 

“I know, and Philipp Freise told maine correct astatine nan very beginning, ‘You cognize Fred, you tin beryllium judge that we will waste 1 time because that’s our business.’ But this is simply a very adjacent woody and I tin unrecorded pinch that very good because we cognize we are moving connected a target and past you continue.”

Regarding a imaginable early waste of  nan group, Kogel says thing is fixed successful immoderate way. “It could beryllium tons of possibilities because Leonine is simply a very bully strategical plus for anybody who wants to person a person look astatine Germany. We are simply nan German champion successful production, distribution and licensing. That was ever nan extremity and this is simply a extremity we are moving very difficult for each day.”

Despite a rocky start, Leonine has continued to spot beardown growth. “It’s ever important for a task for illustration Leonine to person bully numbers and we person been moving difficult and achieved our goals contempt headwinds from various sides, for illustration COVID and nan wide economical situation.”

Kogel notes that Leonine is expecting “a very beardown 10% CAGR [compound yearly maturation rate] for nan years 2020 to 2023 … for some full output and adjusted EBITA [earnings earlier interest, taxation and amortization], which is supported by our good diversified merchandise portfolio and nan heavy worth chain.”

Leonine’s maturation is besides evident successful its expanding number of employees. At nan extremity of 2019, nan institution had a full of 550 employees. By nan extremity of 2022, that number had reached 1,400.

“For america it was ever important to turn organically. This is what we did because our basal thought is to thief and merge and spell a agelong measurement pinch nan institution we get via M&A.”

Indeed, Leonine’s M&A strategy is to get 100% of targeted companies and afloat merge them. “We work nan group units pinch finance, IT, ineligible and HR truthful that they tin attraction wholly connected nan imaginative process.”

While Leonine is seeking to grow successful Europe — and successful 2021 joined French sister company, likewise a KKR asset, successful acquiring a mostly liking successful U.K. shaper Drama Republic — existent marketplace conditions make acquisitions astatine nan infinitesimal unlikely. The business could alteration successful six to 12 months, however, Kogel notes, adding that companies astatine nan infinitesimal are still priced very high.

Germany’s difficult economical business has besides taken its toll, peculiarly erstwhile it comes to accumulation costs, Kogel says. The company’s recreation costs unsocial person accrued betwixt 200 and 300%. High inflation, marketplace insecurity and TV advertisement cancelations person resulted successful “a high-tension situation.”  

While Leonine attributes its occurrence successful portion to streaming platforms, it is besides pushing for a fairer regulatory model that would thief its companies and different home producers clasp much authorities to their shows.

“In nan immense mostly of cases, nan communal business believe successful Germany is simply a full buyout, and pinch nan streamers besides a cost-plus separator concept,” Kogel states. “This is simply a pity because nan producers should beryllium successful a domiciled wherever they support their IP and that’s of people what Leonine tries to do and is frankincense gathering arsenic galore IPs and awesome concepts arsenic we can.

“Sometimes you tin discuss pinch a fewer streaming platforms a retention of authorities but these astatine nan infinitesimal successful my sentiment are not that valuable. That’s 1 of nan reasons we person a beardown attraction connected nan preamble of an finance responsibility for world streamers operating successful Germany, very akin to what our colleagues successful France person achieved.”

In France, nan first state to o.k. nan European Union’s Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMS), streamers person to put two-thirds of their wide walk connected independent productions whose authorities revert to producers aft 3 years, while leaving one-third for flat-fee accumulation deals successful which they support each rights. 

Rights retention for producers and performance-based gross entitlements are nan main aspects of nan finance obligations, Kogel adds. “So connected a governmental level, nan finance responsibility is simply a apical privilege for america and I deliberation it’s basal that it’s implemented successful Germany arsenic it already exists successful France to supply a regulatory model to antagonistic oligopoly-like structures that are presently prevailing and to create a level playing field. All authorities should revert backmost to nan accumulation institution aft 3 years.”

Rights are different cardinal cornerstone for nan institution and its Leonine Licensing division, which boasts an extended library.

Leonine’s office successful Munich Courtesy of Leonine Studios

Based successful Munich and named aft nan heraldic lions that adorn nan Bavarian overgarment of arms, Leonine has taken its spot among nan city’s different high-profile players, Constantin and Beta Film, whose ain legacies whitethorn person planted nan seeds of Kogel’s venture.  

Kogel counts among his inspirations manufacture leaders who person near an indelible people connected Germany’s media industry: Beta Film laminitis Leo Kirch, Constantin’s Bernd Eichinger and Beta’s existent proprietor and CEO Jan Mojto.

“When it comes to Leo Kirch, he was simply a awesome entrepreneur. He had a movie aliases a production, he wanted to waste it nan champion he could. He was a trader. He did everything successful his entrepreneurial life make nan champion trades. Bernd Eichinger was ever for illustration my older brother. I admired his courageousness and his will to do nan champion productions, to make merchandise that is premium, and he was phenomenal astatine it. And Jan Mojto, I worked a agelong clip pinch him. He was my president of nan committee astatine Sat.1 – that’s wherever we started and we went a agelong way. I ever admired him for his internationality and his heavy knowledge of nan business. He for maine is nan cleanable salesman and he besides is conscionable simply a awesome quality being and that is reflected successful his emotion for merchandise and people. And harvester each those, they make a bully domiciled model.”

Kogel adds: “Munich was ever beardown pinch nan likes of Constantin and Beta but now it has a 3rd awesome subordinate and this is Leonine. I deliberation it really has strengthened nan authorities of Bavarian and nan metropolis of Munich arsenic a media hub.”