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Discovery, Liberty set for $933m All3Media takeover

only_way_is_essex_1Discovery Communications and Liberty Global have reportedly paired up to acquire UK production powerhouse All3Media for around £550 million (US$933 million).

Discovery and Liberty, which are both backed by US cable TV mogul John Malone, are due to formally announce the deal tomorrow, according to Sky News, which broke the news this morning.

It is though the pair will create a new parent company for All3 should the acquisition go ahead.

A deal would end the long search for a new parent for All3, which was originally put up for auction in 2011, but found offers much lower than the £750 million private equity house Permira was seeking.

Despite that failing, All3 remained on the hunt for new owners. Earlier this year, FremantleMedia entered into exclusive talks to acquire the firm. However, a due diligence window recently ended, allowing Discovery and Liberty to swoop in.

All3’s production assets comprise Lime Pictures, Company Pictures, Bentley Productions, Optomen, One Potato Two Potato, MME Moviement, Studio Lambert, All3Media America, John Stanley Productions, IDTV, Little Dot Studios, Objective Productions, North One Television, Lion Television, South Pacific Pictures, Maverick TV and Zoo Productions.

Its best know programmes include Peep Show, Midsomer Murders, Undercover Boss, Gogglebox, The Cube, The Only Way is Essex, Hollyoaks, The White Queen, Horrible Histories, Skins, Embarrassing Bodies, 10 Years Younger and Shameless. It also produces Derren Brown and Gordon Ramsay programming.

It also operates distribution arm All3Media International, and has a branded content unit, Apollo20.

Discovery, meanwhile, recently pulled out of the race to sign UK terrestrial Channel 5. This left Viacom to pay £450 million to acquire the broadcaster.

Discovery has also been buying UK indie producers, and earlier this year added Raw TV to its ranks. It had already acquired Betty TV and CEO David Zaslav this week said the firm was on the lookout for “opportunistic” acquisitions.

Pay TV channel operator Liberty Global, meanwhile, sold its channels and content business Chellomedia to AMC Networks for €750 million (US$1 billion) last year. The deal completed in February, and CEO Mike Fries’ assertion Chello had “never” been strategic fit suggested Liberty was getting out of content ownership. Should the All3 deal go ahead, this will prove untrue.

Steve Morrison, Jules Burns and David Liddiment launched All3 in 2003 and quickly established it as the UK’s leading indie production company in terms of output.

Finance house Permira and All3’s management team bought the prodco for £320 million from launch investor Bridgepoint in 2006.