Israel fund to invest $55 mln in TV shows for sale abroad

TEL AVIV, July 21 Mon Jul 21, 2014 7:33am EDT

TEL AVIV, July 21 (Reuters) - The TV Format Fund aims to capitalise on the recent success of Israeli television shows such as spy thriller "Homeland" in Hollywood by investing in new formats created in Israel and selling them abroad.

Founded six months ago by Alon Dolev and the Rubicon Business Group, the fund plans to invest $55 million, hoping to do for Israel's small but active entertainment sector what venture capital funds have done for its high-tech industry.

"Why does the high-tech industry work so well and the creative industry is bleeding money? In Israel, when you have an idea for a television show you have very few options for funding," Dolev, the fund's chief executive, told Reuters.

In addition to the Emmy-award winning Showtime series Homeland, others such as "In Treatment" and "Tyrant" were created by Israelis or based on Israeli shows.

The only outlets in Israel to fund TV shows are commercial channels 2 and 10, Bezeq's satellite TV provider YES and cable operator HOT, owned by French group Altice.

Dolev said investing in a new TV format is less risky than investing in a tech start-up since far less money is needed and the time to market is much faster.

"With $100,000 you can make a pilot, go to the market and sell the format or option it," Dolev said.

The fund, which raised the initial money from Rubicon, an investment group with interests in finance, insurance, tourism and leisure, plans soon to bring in new investors, Dolev said.

It has invested in one new format - a Candid Camera game show called "Mission is Possible" that will be marketed and distributed by Dori Media Group. Investments in three other new formats will soon close.

Dolev said the fund plans to make 12-14 investments a year.

It is also in talks for joint ventures with broadcasters, distributors and production companies in Israel and abroad in countries such as the UK, Malta, Ireland and the United States.

"We can return 60-100 percent of the investment from selling options," Dolev said, adding that the big money was to be made in royalties from broadcasts of the show. (Editing by Steven Scheer)

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