Elisabeth Murdoch-Backed Sister Posts $7.7M Loss Amid Coronavirus Crisis & Expansion Efforts

EXCLUSIVE: Sister, the media co-venture owned by Elisabeth Murdoch, Stacey Snider, and Jane Featherstone, has posted a loss of $7.7M in its first 18 months of trading, during which it expanded its investment empire and was hit by the coronavirus production shutdown.

The producer behind Emmy-winning Chernobyl and Amazon’s upcoming series The Power published its inaugural set of earnings at the UK’s Companies House today, providing a first detailed snapshot of the company, which began operating in September 2019 with the $63.8M acquisition of Featherstone’s production house Sister Original.

In the 18 months to the end of December 2020, the group’s revenue stood at $38.4M. While it is not directly comparable, it was below the revenue of £65.2M ($90M) Sister Original posted in 2019, which was when it delivered Chernobyl to Sky and HBO, as well as BBC series Giri/Haji.

Sister said its revenue was “lower than expected” because of the pandemic. It was expecting to deliver The Power, BBC/AMC series This Is Going To Hurt, and Sky/HBO series Landscapers last year, but the shoots were disrupted by coronavirus. All three shows are now in production and will deliver in 2021.

“The directors have considered the effect of Covid on future periods and determined that the impact will reduce revenue and profitability in 2021 due to the later start of productions post the UK being in lockdown, but expect 2022 to be broadly unaffected,” said the earnings report.

Sister’s adjusted EBITDA, its preferred measure of profit, was a loss of $7.7M. The company attributed this to “delays to the production schedule and the start-up nature of the US and group operations.” Its pre-tax loss stood at $35.9M for the 18-month period, with operating expenses of $44.4M. Adjusted net debt was $18.4M.

Sister has made seven notable investments since launch, including Sister Original. The accounts break down Sister’s holdings in joint ventures and associates for the first time. Here’s a full picture of the Sister empire:

  • Sister Original: 100%
  • Zando (U.S. book publisher): 50%
  • Campside Media (U.S. podcast creator): 44%
  • Obar Camden Holdings (UK live music firm): 40%
  • South Of The River Pictures (Olivia Colman’s UK production company): 25%
  • The Springhill Company (LeBron James and Maverick Carter’s U.S. media company): 3.4%, valued at $10.9M
  • Artists Writers & Artisans (U.S. comic book publisher): 10%, valued at $2.5M

The company remains in investment mode, and Deadline understands it is continuing to hunt for partnership and acquisition opportunities. Indeed, the earnings revealed that in March, Sister increased its stake in Artists Writers & Artisans to 14.6% with another $2M investment.

In a statement, Sister CFO Chris Fry said: “Sister has had an exceptionally busy and productive first 18 months since founding. Despite an unexpectedly difficult growth environment, we have delivered major productions including Giri/Haji, The Split and Gangs of London — and established strong foundations for growth in the US.

“We’ve also made a number of exciting investments in creative industries across the UK and US and have a diverse slate of productions already lined up for 2021. We look forward to building on this growth trajectory as we continue to invest in empowering visionary storytellers.”

Sister’s 2021 production slate includes the second season of Gangs of London, which it co-produces with Pulse Films; the third and final season of Abi Morgan’s BBC drama The Split; and Sky/HBO dark comic horror, The Baby.

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