Peter Chernin, Endemol, Core Media Hold Early Merger Discussions

2:49 AM PST 10/05/2012 by Kim Masters

A deal could bring together the boutique entertainment firm of the former News Corp. president and global reality TV hit franchises.

Peter Chernin has held early talks about merging his independent entertainment firm The Chernin Group with Endemol and Core Media Group, the corporate parent of American Idol producer 19 Entertainment, The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed.

A deal could elevate the film and TV production operation built by former News Corp. president Chernin, who could serve as chairman of a merged company, and make it a bigger content supplier.

The talks were first reported by the Los Angeles Times.

Netherlands-based Endemol, which has been looking to restructure its big debt load, is known as a global reality TV powerhouse thanks to such shows as Big Brother. But it has also started to push into scripted shows with such fare as AMC drama Hell on Wheels.

Over the past year, Time Warner has been among those companies that has looked at a possible acquisition of Endemol for about $1.4 billion, but its debt holders decided to keep the company independent.

Core Media is the company formerly known as CKX, which is now led by former NBC Entertainment boss Marc Graboff. Its other franchises include So You Think You Can Dance and the rights to the names and images of Elvis Presley and Muhammad Ali.

Private equity firms are likely to play a key role in a potential deal.

Providence Equity Partners made a $200 million investment in the Chernin Group earlier this year. And Core Media is owned by private equity firm Apollo Global Management. Apollo is also Endemol's largest debt holder.

Georg Szalai in London contributed to this report.

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