Pearson Television, the TV production arm of the UK's Pearson Group, has finalised its acquisition of London-based TV production outfit TalkBack Productions for $94m (£62m), Pearson announced today (June 14).
The Pearson group is to finance the widely-anticipated move through existing bank facilities. The debt incurred is transferring to Pearson Television on completion of its merger with Europe's CLT-Ufa, which is to be finalised this summer.
TalkBack founding partners Mel Smith and Griff Rhys Jones will continue as directors, as will managing director Peter Fincham.
The move is seen as a push by Pearson, reliant on soaps and game-shows, into diversifying its production operations. TalkBack is behind such recent comedy programmes as Da Ali G Show, Smack The Pony and They Think It's all Over.
"TalkBack brings creative power that complements our existing production business while taking us in major new directions," said Richard Eyre, Pearson Television chief executive, in a statement. "They have a proven track record in finding and nurturing new talent and new genres."
Several media companies including Endemol and the UK's Carlton Communications are understood to have courted TalkBack, which has a long-term deal with Buena Vista for comedy feature productions. TalkBack's principal customers for TV programming are UK broadcasters Channel Four and the BBC.
Eyre added: "The acquisition will also enable TalkBack to grow faster, as it will now be able to supply talent, programming and formats to Pearson Television's worldwide production businesses, especially as we merge with our new European partners."
Pearson and CLT-Ufa co-controlling shareholders Bertelsmann and Groupe Bruxelles Lambert plan to create an integrated pan-European company spanning TV and radio broadcasting, TV production, sports rights and online activities. Pearson will take a 22% stake in the new company, which will be listed on the London Stock Exchange.