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Variety: Beta Nordic Studios Acquires Stake In Icelandic Banner Sagafilm

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Sep 02 2020

Beta Nordic Studios, a subsidiary of Jan Mojto's Munich-based sales powerhouse Beta Film, has acquired a 25% stake in Sagafilm, the thriving Icelandic production banner behind the Cineflix-repped series "The Minister" (with with Olafur Darri Olafsson, pictured).

Sagafilm will now be part of Beta Nordic Studios, an unbrella group launched in 2019, comprising Patrick Nebout's Swedish banner Dramacorp ("Cryptid") and Matti Halonen's Finnish company Fisher King ("Bordertown"). DramaCorp is a joint venture set up in 2016 by Beta and Nebout, a French-Swedish executive.

Beta Nordic Studios focuses on local scripted projects with an international appeal and is backed by Beta Film's international distribution network.

The deal allows Beta Film to ramp up further its presence in the Nordics and collaborate with Sagafilm's experienced producers who have nurtured a vibrant talent pool over the years. Iceland's oldest production company, the 40-year old Sagafilm has a topnotch track record in films, TV series and documentaries, as well as commercials, and line producing for foreign projects. Some of its recent scripted productions include "Thin Ice," "The Flatey Enigma" and "Stella Blomkvist."

 

"As a German based production company, having this Scandinavian footprint is very important. We have found that the Nordics delivers some of the best-selling non-English drama series in the world, next to Spanish series," said Justus Riesenkampff, the executive VP of Nordics and Benelux at Beta Film. "Nordic programs tend to have a premium quality and are interesting for distributors," added the executive.

Iceland is also a hot spot for filming thanks in part to its tax incentive scheme and its landscapes that traditionally lure foreign shoots, including many big U.S. projects. Beta will now be able benefit from this advantages in Iceland for its own productions.

Sagafilm, meanwhile, will gain better access to global markets for film and TV productions through the alliance with Beta.

"Iceland is a small market so we're always dependent on international success of our projects so it made sense for us to join forces with Beta Nordic Studios to further our ambition and build our international IP business," said Kjartan Thor Thordarson, the CEO of Sagafilm Nordic. "There is a lot of opportunities in nordics with consolidation happening, but we're proud to be independent — Beta is a big group but it's still independent," added Thor Thordarson.

"Beta Nordic Studios has shown an extremely big ambition for European drama and we want to be part of that. The demand for premium content is bigger than ever and we're part of a growing industry, so being backed by a strong international group will help us deal with incoming players in this market and continue on our journey," said Hilmar Sigurdsson, the CEO of Sagafilm.

Sagafilm, which hasn't been impacted by the health crisis, has four major productions in the pipeline. Sagafilm's latest drama series, "The Minister" will premiere on RUV on Sept. 20. Besides Beta, Sagafilm's other shareholders are KPR and HilGun. The company currently has 20 projects in development at different stages, said Sigurdsson.

These projects will not necessarily be sold in international markets by Beta Film. "We will maintain our independence and continue working with different partners as we've been doing throughout the years," added Sigurdsson.

"All three companies that are part of Beta Nordics Studios are strong, internationally-driven companies and together they will bolster each other," said Beta Nordic Studios' managing director Martin Håkansson who is joining the board of directors of Sagafilm along with Riesenkampff.

"Scandinavian producers are used to collaborate a lot and Beta Nordic Studios will give them more opportunities and a bigger competitive edge to board the best projects," said Håkansson.

Beta Film is also established in Spain with Beta Entertainment Spain, a joint venture launched a year ago with Spanish producer Javier Pérez de Silva.