News Corp.'s Shine, Others Mull Bids for U.K. Producer Big Talk

Some see News Corp.-owned Shine, led by Elisabeth Murdoch, as a strong contender, but others are also exploring a deal.

News Corp.-owned TV producer Shine Group, led by chairman and Rupert Murdoch daughter Elisabeth Murdoch, is among the companies exploring a possible acquisition of U.K. TV and film production firm Big Talk Productions.

Sources on Friday confirmed early deal talks between the companies.  

Other companies believed to have held early-stage talks or to have considered bids are Canadian producer/distributor Entertainment One and Sony Pictures Television, which has acquired smaller production firms abroad.

A spokesman for Big Talk confirmed that Big Talk is reviewing its options, but declined to comment further. Representatives for the other companies declined to comment.

Big Talk is known for such films as Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz and series like Comedy Central's Threesome, ITV drama The Town and BBC comedies The Job Lot and Our Men.

BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the British public broadcaster, currently holds a 25 percent stake in Big Talk under a distribution deal struck about five years ago. It ends later this year, and the company could extend its relationship with BBC Worldwide or decide to sell. A sale would allow BBC Worldwide to cash out of its stake.

Big Talk's 2012 revenue rose 90 percent to $33.6 million (£21.9 million). Broadcast magazine ranks it as the eighth-largest indie production firm in Britain.

BBC Worldwide invested £1.6 million for its 25 percent stake in the firm five years ago. Given Big Talk's financial growth since then, a deal could be worth $23 million-$31 million (£15 million-£20 million), according to Broadcast.

Big Talk co-CEO Kenton Allen and Murdoch are known to be friends, causing some U.K. observers to call Shine a frontrunner.

For Shine, a deal would be its first bigger acquisition in the U.K. since News Corp. acquired it for $673 million in early 2011.

The company's process of weighing its options seems to be at about its midway point. A next likely step is to be the start of exclusive negotiations with one suitor.

Twitter: @georgszalai