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ITV buys up Big Talk

UK commercial broadcaster ITV has acquired Big Talk Productions, the film and television prodco behind Simon Pegg films Shaun of the Dead and The World’s End, in a deal worth an initial £12.5m (US$19m).

Comedy specialist Big Talk also produces TV series such as Channel 4’s Friday Night Dinner, Him & Her on BBC3 and BBC2 sitcom Rev.

ITV will pay an initial sum of about £12.5m but this could rise to almost £30m, depending on Big Talk’s future performance. Further capped cash payments are payable on the delivery of significant profit growth over the next five years, ITV said.

Big Talk Productions was founded in 1995 by Nira Park, who produced Channel 4 comedies Spaced and Black Books.

Kenton Allen joined as CEO from BBC Comedy in 2008, after BBC Worldwide (BBCWW) took a 25% stake in the company. He and Matthew Justice, Big Talk’s MD, went on to restructure the business.

Park, Allen and Justice together have a 65% stake in the prodco, while 10% is owned by minority shareholders including Pegg, fellow actor Nick Frost and director Edgar Wright, creators of the comedies Spaced, Shaun of the Dead and The World’s End.

The prodco has also recently produced the Daniel Radcliffe and Jon Hamm miniseries A Young Doctor’s Notebook for Sky Arts, which recently greenlit the show for a second season.

Big Talk Productions currently has a number of other projects in development for the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Sky, and is in development with a number of US networks on versions of its hit UK series as well as original comedy and drama ideas.

The acquisition means ITV Studios Global Entertainment will distribute all Big Talk’s new TV content and help the company grow its international presence, particularly in the Northern American market. BBCWW retains global distribution rights to Big Talk’s back catalogue and future UK series based on those shows.

The acquisition also includes film producer Big Talk Pictures, part of Big Talk Productions, which has made a number of features including Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Attack The Block, Sightseers and, most recently, The World’s End.

It is the latest in a string of purchases by the broadcaster as it looks to expand its production portfolio in the UK and US.

In May, it paid US$25.65m for a controlling stake in US reality TV producer High Noon Entertainment, known for its series Cake Boss.

That followed hot on the heels of a £18m (US$27.4m) deal for London-based indie The Garden, the production company set up by former Dragonfly execs Nick Curwin and Magnus Temple that has enjoyed global success with formats 24 Hours in A&E and The Audience.

In December last year, ITV paid US$40m for a 61.5% controlling stake in US indie Gurney Productions which makes ratings hit Duck Dynasty for A&E.

The broadcaster is also said to be eyeing a £90m (US$135m) bid for Scandinavian production group Nice Entertainment.

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