Media: Lifeline - Endemol

Born in The Netherlands, the company behind Big Brother now faces a £1.4 bn takeover bid. 1994: Joop van den Ende and John de Mol, two of the most successful producers in Dutch television, merge their operations (Joop van den Ende Productions and John de Mol Produkties) to create Endemol. Successful programme formats are sold to neighbouring countries, especially Belgium and Germany.

1996: Already one of the biggest TV production companies in Europe, with interests in Spain, Germany and Portugal, a flotation on the Amsterdam stock exchange accelerates expansion into the UK, Italy, France, the US, Brazil and Mexico. Bazal Productions (acquired by Endemol in 1998) develops the Ground Force concept. The show later proves an unlikely hit for Endemol in the US.

1999: Devises Big Brother for the Dutch market. The following year, the programme attracts huge of media interest when it debuts in the US and UK markets. Subsequently, the massively popular reality TV gameshow format is cloned across the entire planet.

2000: Acquired by the Spanish telecommunications group Telefonica. Van den Ende has already left, followed by de Mol as Telefonica struggles to maximise the return on its investment. Endemol buys out Guardian Media Group's 50 per cent stake in Bazal (now Endemol UK Productions) in order to make it a wholly owned UK subsidiary.

2004: The media superpower Time Warner launches a EUR2 billion takeover bid. The US media owner wants to get hold of some of the biggest reality shows appearing on US networks, including Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, which airs on ABC, and Fear Factor on NBC.

Fast forward

2006: Endemol uses US expertise to evolve its repertoire beyond tired reality formats. First major hit under the new regime is a Friends-inspired European comedy drama series set in downtown Brussels. Endemol UK's reality TV concept Restoration becomes a hit in the US, despite the difficulty in finding heritage sites to feature in the programme.

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