Scholastic’s Acquisition of Canada’s 9 Story Media Group

In News by Porter Anderson

Scholastic CEO Peter Warwick says the acquisition of 9 Story Media Group will bring ‘the pages of our books to life on screens and through merchandising.’

Some of 9 Story Media Group’s distribution titles. Image: 9 Story Distribution

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Warwick: ‘Potential To Build Deeper Connections’
A story that moved during London Book Fair,  the United States-based children’s publisher Scholastic is awaiting a satisfactory opinion from Pascale St-Onge, the minister of Canadian Heritage, for its planned acquisition of Toronto-based, 20-year-old 9 Story Media Group for what Scholastic’s media messaging says is “approximately US$186 million” (CAN251.1 million).

The advantage to Scholastic of this buy is laid out frankly in a single line: “significantly expanding opportunities for production and global licensing of Scholastic IP,” intellectual property. The transaction, Scholastic says, is expected to close in the American company’s fiscal 2025 Q1, which begins on June 1 of this year. Both companies’ boards and the shareholders of 9 Story reportedly have approved the sale.

Under the terms of the agreement, Scholastic acquires 100 percent of the economic interests and a minority of voting rights in 9 Story, which is a producer and distributor of live-action and animated content (Brown Bag Films) with facilities not only in Toronto and New York but also in Dublin and Bali. All told, 9 Story Media reportedly employees at least 1,000 staffers.

Founded in September 2002 by Vince Commisso, Steve Jarosz, and Blake Tohana, the company lists two Oscar nominations, one Peabody Award win, 19 Emmy Award wins, 10 Bafta nominations, 42 Parents’ Circle awards, and 23 Kidscreen award wins.

Vince Commisso

Commisso is president and CEO of 9 Story, and in a comment on the news says, “We’ve been fortunate to work with Scholastic for decades, going back to my own start with … The Magic School Bus.

“The combination of our global studios, sales and distribution capabilities with Scholastic’s existing media business, iconic name, and unique capabilities opens even more opportunities to deliver compelling stories and build impactful brands for audiences worldwide.”

The production portfolio of 9 Story Media Group includes Clifford the Big Red Dog, see on PBS Kids and Amazon Prime, and Eva the Owlet seen on Apple TV. The company recently announced an agreement with Crayola Studios “to handle production and distribution on all new, original projects,” according to media messaging, “as well as the acquisition of Portfolio Entertainment’s library, production slate, and development projects, which added more than 550 half-hours of content.”

9 Story is reported to have 131 consumer product licenses, 18 animation production lines, and more than 70 properties placed on major “AVOD” (advertising-based video on demand) platforms.

Commisso: ‘To Deliver Compelling Stories’

Divisions, in addition to the animation-focused Brown Bag Films, include 9 Story Distribution, an international division that represents more than 5,000 half-hour episodes of 2-D and 3-D animated and live-action programming for young viewers. 9 Story Brands is a consumer products division.

Peter Warwick

Scholastic president and CEO Peter Warwick says, “This highly strategic combination, adding 9 Story’s industry-leading capabilities with Scholastic’s trusted brand and proven ability to create iconic children’s series and franchises, has tremendous potential to build deeper connections with young people through our stories, as the pages of our books come to life on screens and through merchandising.

“At its core, Scholastic’s 360-degree content creation strategy is about engaging children with reading, and we have introduced our stories to generations of kids by reaching them where they are.

“We’re thrilled to build on our more-than 20-year relationship with 9 Story’s exceptional management team and employees, whose culture and values could not be better aligned with our own.”

Iole Lucchese

And Iole Lucchese, Scholastic’s board chair and president of Scholastic Entertainment, says, “By bringing together Scholastic’s knowledge of what kids love and our proven track record of successful media development with 9 Story’s top-rated global production, distribution, and licensing capabilities, I’m confident we can meet the continued, strong demand for high-quality kids’ and family entertainment.

“Today’s announcement presents a huge opportunity to expand the footprint of Scholastic’s authors and illustrators and to build international franchises on every platform, creating more value for the creators and for our shareholders.”

According to Scholastic’s announcement, 9 Story Media Group in its fiscal year ending August 31 recorded revenues of some US$104 million (CAN140.7 million).

“Scholastic expects the addition of 9 Story to contribute long-term earnings accretion, reduce the capital intensity of production, and drive substantial improvements in top-line growth and bottom-line results through 9 Story’s existing content library, best-in-class production studios, and global distribution and licensing capabilities,” Scholastic’s announcement reads.

A graphic, which is part of a statement of rationale for the deal presented to members of the news media, shows 9 Story’s engagement in consumer products to have stood, in 2023, at 3 percent; distribution at 19 percent; intellectual property production at 39 percent; and creative service production at 40 percent.

Image: Provided by Scholastic

More from Publishing Perspectives on children’s book publishing is here, more on the work of Scholastic is here, more on book-to-film and words-to-screen development is here, more on the Canadian market is here, and more on mergers and acquisitions is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.