EXCLUSIVE: A relatively quiet MipTV is about to get a little bit noisier with the possibility of another TV mega-merger. The word on the Croisette is that ITV is one of a number of major television groups considering acquiring Endemol Shine Group.
Sources at ITV tell me that the British commercial broadcaster, which already has a major production presence, has started exploring a deal, which would be the latest in a long-line of scale moves in the global TV world. It is thought that ITV is one of several companies “lying in wait” to take over the Big Brother and Broadchurch superindie.
I understand that while there are no concrete negotiations currently taking place, buyers have been alerted that there’s a very good chance that Endemol Shine Group becomes in play this year.
ESG is currently 50% owned by 21st Century Fox and 50% by private equity firm Apollo Global Management. The latter has been quietly shopping its stake in ESG. Sources have told me that a number of things need to happen first to make a deal go through, particularly Disney’s takeover of Fox, for which it is currently awaiting approval.
While it’s not exactly clear whether it’s just the PE firm’s 50% stake that is on the table or whether Fox’s 50% is also available, the latter would be the most attractive proposition.
Disney’s $50B deal for Fox comes at a good time for Apollo, which is shopping its stake to leverage Disney, as well as alert others to the fact that in a world of Marvel superheroes and Lucasfilm’s Star Wars movies, Endemol Shine may not quite fit within the Mouse House.
There are also very few other superindie production businesses that are on the market, and in a world where drama is booming and entertainment is due for a resurgence, it wouldn’t be a bad bet for ITV or others to make.
Other sources suggest that given Disney’s lack of international television production, particularly as it ramps up its own streaming plans, that may still make it an attractive business for the Hollywood studio. Endemol Shine is expected to reveal double digit growth shortly and at MipTV, it’s quite clear that the group’s international titles such as singing contest All Together Now, are performing both domestically and globally.
A deal for ITV would be a major statement by recently installed CEO Carolyn McCall, who joined at the start of the year. The purchase of Endemol Shine would certainly eclipse its acquisition of The Voice producer Talpa Media, its previous largest deal, which cost it an initial cash consideration of €500M ($618M).
“There’s a lot to play for first,” admitted one exec, although this game of chess is starting to heat up. As for the usual corporate responses, an ITV spokesman told Deadline that it does not “comment on speculation,” while an Endemol Shine Group spokesman also declined to comment.