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Hollywood Superagency WME's New Pitch Is Selling Shows Globally

When the producers of the John Le Carre TV thriller “The Night Manager” wanted to market their series outside the U.K., they chose an odd partner to sell the series: an arm of the William Morris talent agency that owns tennis tournaments and runs fashion shows.

Executives at William Morris Endeavor told the Ink Factory, their client and the show’s producer, that IMG Media, with salesmen in more than 30 countries, could get the best deal for the six-part drama. It didn’t hurt that WME, led by superagent Ari Emanuel and co-Chief Executive Officer Patrick Whitesell, already represented the two main stars, Hugh Laurie and Tom Hiddleston.

IMG Media, which sells broadcast rights to more than 400 sporting events, is at the heart of efforts by the talent agency to develop, finance and sell entertainment worldwide, ideally with the company and clients making more on each project.

That’s a big part of what drove WME to buy IMG Global two years ago in a $2.4 billion deal backed by the Silver Lake Management LLC, and has helped attract more than $300 million in capital this year from SoftBank Group Corp. and Fidelity Management & Research Co.

“WME is an agency representing the best scripted and non-scripted talent, producers and intellectual property owners in the world,’’ said Chris Rice, a partner who coordinates activities between the companies. “IMG is a global sales force driving rights into every country around the world. The ability to help those clients navigate what has become a much more global TV business is unique.’’

Using IMG to take its clients’ TV shows around the world is one example of how WME hopes to leverage the IMG assets and turn a U.S.-centric talent agency into a global player in sports, fashion and entertainment. That’s the kind of company that can appeal to investors should WME-IMG go public, as has long been speculated.