News Corp-owned Shine Group is in advanced negotiations to acquire scripted indie Big Talk Productions.
The producer of Rev, Friday Night Dinner and Youngers [pictured] has been weighing up its options for several months. Big Talk joint chief executive Kenton Allen told Broadcast in January he was determined to identify the indie’s best opportunity for growth.
Big Talk was first thought to be seeking a buyer at the end of 2012, when Sony Pictures Television was linked to the company. Since then, rumours of SPT’s interest have persisted and it is still thought to be in the running.
Endemol is also thought to have had a close look at adding Big Talk to its stable, and Canadian producer and distributor Entertainment One, which makes series including Haven and Rogue, is understood to have run the rule over the company. However, discussions with Shine are thought to be well advanced and progressing at a steady pace.
Allen and Shine chairman Elisabeth Murdoch worked together last year, when the latter delivered the MacTaggart lecture at the Edinburgh International TV Festival, and are friends from Allen’s previous spell as Shine creative director.
A Big Talk spokesman said the company was looking at a number of options.
Big Talk, which is the UK’s eighth-largest ‘true’ indie, according to Broadcast’s 2013 Indie Survey, grew its turnover by 89% year on year, from £12.6m in 2011 to £21.9m in 2012. Sources close to the takeover negotiations believe the deal will be worth between £15m and £20m, if it goes ahead.
BBC Worldwide currently holds a minority stake in Big Talk, but that is likely to be disposed of if the acquisition goes through. The indie’s five-year deal with BBCW, which invested £1.6m for a 25% share, expires in August.
Big Talk’s catalogue of scripted comedy content would complement the existing indies in the Shine Group and build on its initial move into the genre when it bought Brown Eyed Boy in 2010.
The How Not To Live Your Life producer has won a commission to make Vicious for ITV, and Shine is thought to be keen to expand its group-wide comedy ambitions. Shine has also been acquiring companies operating in the digital space, such as Bossa Studios and Channel Flip.
As well as Big Talk’s TV slate, including recent Sky Atlantic commission Mr Sloane, it has a major film division, with credits including Attack The Block and Sightseers. Shine Group operates 12 indies and digital specialists in the UK, and has standalone divisions in the US and Australia, plus France, Germany and Spain. It also has a strong presence in Scandinavia, where it operates 11 companies.
Big Talk: at a glance
- 2013 turnover up 90% to 21.9m
- 100% of turnover generated from UK 28 original hours in UK in 2012
- 126 hours of UK repeats in 2012
- 17 full-time UK staff
- Key shows: Rev, Him And Her; Friday Night Dinner
This article first appeared on Broadcast.