Media Fortune Fame & Folly

UK actor database sold

Talent Systems, the LA-based owner of Casting Networks, has acquired the 94-year-old UK castings platform Spotlight from its owner Ben Seale. The price is rumoured to be £20-30m.

Spotlight is the dominant provider of information on castings and auditions, primarily in the UK. For decades, it was a series of large directories of actors and performers until it migrated, first, to CDs and then online. The former Spotlight directory featured striking black-and-white photographs of performers, printed above their name and the details of their agents. It became a hefty tome of no less than 15,000 pages.

It is believed that the company had 2019 revenue of some £10m, derived mostly from the 60k actors whose agents pay some £150 per year on their behalf for the online listing of CVs and audition video. Spotlight also produces showreels and hosts auditions at its Central London studios, and publishes the “Contacts” handbook in print and digitally, which lists over 5,000 companies, services and people across all branches of UK entertainment. The platform has an estimated 5k potential employers, notably casting agents and producers.

It is believed that Spotlight, which has 75 employees, had been making an adjusted operating profit of some £2-3m. But this may have been eroded during 2020 by the pandemic which has caused the cancellation of film, TV and theatre productions almost everywhere. The UK lockdown forced Spotlight to waive its subscription fees for several months after a well-publicised petition from 500 actors.

The sale of Spotlight was completed in November but not announced until this week. The only clue to the change of ownership, meanwhile, had been a revamp of its web sites. While Spotlight will continue to operate as a separate brand, Talent Systems is planning the ‘harmonisation’ of digital systems in order to give international operators like Netflix, Amazon, Disney and HBO seamless access to performers across the world.

Talent Systems Inc was formed in 2017 by joint CEOs Rafi Gordon (ex Credit Suisse) and Alex Amin (ex Baseline) with Caltius Equity to buy and build companies providing tech platforms for casting and audition management. Gordon and Amin are also JV shareholders with the WME talent group in the product placement company Signal Entertainment Marketing.

In the US, TS group companies include: Casting Networks (casting directors and agents), Cast It Systems (major film and television studios), and Modasphere (modelling agencies).