BFI Acquires Crawford Satellite Services

Creates broadcast outsourcing giant
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Broadcast Facilities, Inc. (BFI), the media services company that owns the Los Angeles-based Andrita Media Center, has picked up a major East Coast presence by acquiring the Satellite Services Division of Atlanta-based Crawford Communications.

Financial details of the deal, which was financed by Tennenbaum Capital Partner, were not disclosed.

The deal dramatically expands the scale of BFI, which was formed in 2008 by Simon Bax and Bill Tilson with backing from private equity firm Wasserstein & Co., making it competitive with established media services firms like Ascent Media Group. The Andrita facility, with uplinks about 35 cable channels and provides production services to ABC's "All My Children" and Game Show Network, has about 80 employees, while Crawford Satellite Services comprises some 335 employees. BFI has picked up Crawford's network origination business, which currently uplinks some 70 cable networks; its fleet of mobile satellite uplink trucks; a healthy occasional-use satellite uplink business; and a new business in centralcasting services for broadcasters, which Crawford currently provides to the NBC Universal station group. Crawford Satellite Services also has existing businesses in providing broadband Internet connectivity to international clients and backhauling and distributing reams of military-generated video for the U.S. government.

"We have always had the highest regard for the team at Crawford as well as their technical innovations and unique customer focus," said Simon Bax, Chief Executive Officer of BFI, in a statement. "By combining our resources, and our West and East Coast locations, we will now be able to provide a more comprehensive array of high-value services for a broader range of clients."

Crawford Communications founder Jesse Crawford has retained the company's post-production and media management businesses, which will operate under the new umbrella of Crawford Media Services. BFI has retained the rights to the Crawford Satellite Services name for one year, and after that will likely rename the Andrita and Atlanta divisions under a new brand for the combined company, says Tillson, BFI's president and COO.

Tillson said that BFI was founded with the idea of eventually acquiring the Crawford facility in Atlanta; now the company plans to expand further into Asia and Europe. Having two U.S. locations gives the combined firm a natural growth opportunity in providing disaster recovery services to large programmers by mirroring their content in both locations, says Tillson. He also sees a big opportunity in the centralcasting business as stations look to outsource origination instead of making expensive investments in upgrading their master controls to HD.

"Crawford's already in that business with NBC, and I think there's a huge opportunity given the changing economic environment for local stations," says Tillson.

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