News Corp’s Shine Group is in discussions to acquire Big Talk Productions, an independent UK film and television production house behind TV shows including teen series Youngers and films such as Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz.
The move would mark the first significant expansion for Shine in the UK following the sale of the company by Elisabeth Murdoch to News Corp for $673m in February 2011.
Big Talk was launched in 1995 by Nira Park, its current joint chief executive, and quickly established itself as a respected provider of UK comedy and drama. The success of TV shows such as Spaced on Channel 4, starring actor Simon Pegg, was a key motivation behind the company’s decision to later expand into film production.
According to Broadcast magazine, Big Talk is the eighth-largest independent production house in the UK and generated revenues in 2012 of £21.9m, a rise of 89 per cent on the previous year. Current productions include Threesome for Comedy Central, ITV1 drama The Town and, for the BBC, comedy series The Job Lot and Our Men.
In 2008, BBC Worldwide took a 25 per cent stake in the company. A sale of Big Talk, worth about £20m according to people close to the discussions, could see the BBC sell its holding.
A key link between Shine and Big Talk, according to people close to the talks, is Kenton Allen, who became joint chief executive of Big Talk in 2008. Mr Allen was head of BBC Comedy and BBC Comedy North between 2003 and 2008 and before this served as creative director of Shine under Ms Murdoch.
Last year Ms Murdoch handed over the day-to-day running of Shine to Alex Mahon, who became chief executive. At the time Ms Murdoch, who remains chairwoman of Shine, said that “the continued growth of the company requires the chairman and CEO roles to be distinct and separate”.
Shine Group is an international TV production house with operations spanning 29 group companies, including in the US and Australia. Over the past three years the group has established operations in Australia, Germany and France. In May last year the company expanded into children’s entertainment in a co-venture with Andrew Davenport, co-creator of Teletubbies.
Current brands for Shine include Merlin, MasterChef and the Biggest Loser.
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