'Big Brother' producer cleans up with a £5m windfall

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The Independent Online

Endemol UK, producer of the reality TV shows Big Brother, Fame Academy and The Farm, made a loss of £5m for 2004, as an extensive bonus programme ate into profits. The company has paid out a total of £34m in bonuses over the past two years, under a seven-year scheme agreed in 1998.

The bonuses were performance related, following a year where Endemol produced more than 8,000 hours of television.

Mr Bazalgette, the chairman of Endemol UK, and his fellow directors do not own shares in the company, which is wholly owned by the Spanish telecoms giant Telefonica. It may not be the last bonus he and his colleagues receive, as the company is discussing more bonuses to encourage senior staff to stay on after a stock market launch of Endemol, expected at the end of this year or early next.

Endemol's bosses are extending their influence at the global Endemol group, which is based in the Netherlands, and active in more than 20 countries.

Its projects range from Extreme Makeover in the US to pro-celebrity cricket in India, but much of its success has come from franchising simple television formats around the world.

Big Brother has been a notable success from Australia to Brazil, but other programmes, such as Ready, Steady, Cook, have also been transplanted to more than 20 countries around the world.

Merrill Lynch is organising the stock market launch of a minority stake in Endemol group.