IMG Media catches Tiger

Deal includes subsids Tigress, TTP

In the latest wave of consolidation to sweep the U.K.’s production sector, sports powerhouse IMG Media has completed its acquisition of indie producer Tiger Aspect, in a deal estimated to be worth £25 million-£30 million ($46.6 million-$56 million).

Deal includes subsids such as adventure/wildlife producer Tigress and U.S. production company TTP.

Move follows IMG’s acquisition last month of factual specialist Darlow Smithson, producer of hit feature doc “Touching the Void,” and positions the company as the U.K.’s leading independent production group, with an annual turnover in access of $280 million.

Tiger Aspect has long been seen as an acquisition target by larger production groups, thanks to its portfolio of hit program brands, including cult BBC2 comedy “The Catherine Tate Show,” kids’ toon “Charlie and Lola” and the “Mr Bean” franchise.

Both Tiger Aspect and Darlow Smithson will continue to operate as separate units within the IMG Media group, alongside the TV rights/production arm TWI. All three companies will report to Alistair Waddington, who was recently named executive VP/chief operating officer of IMG Media.

“They’re going to run very much as they do now with their own identities,” said Martin Baker, commercial director at IMG Media. “They have a considerable degree of autonomy. It’s our job to allow them to benefit from the opportunities that being part of a big group like this can bring.”

IMG is the world’s leading producer and distributor of sports programming and has been seeking to expand into other genres since it was acquired by New York-based investment house Forstmann Little in 2004. According to Baker, the company now straddles all the genres it wants to be in, but he doesn’t rule out further deals in other markets.

“We are looking at opportunities outside of the U.K.” he told Daily Variety. “We’re an aggressive group looking for growth.”

For Tiger Aspect, which has an annual output of more than 220 hours and an annual turnover of more than £50m, the deal provides it with access to IMG’s network of than 30 offices worldwide and production centers in Hong Kong, New Delhi, New York, Stockholm and Sydney.

IMG also has a sizable new-media business and will be looking to exploit brands such as “Mr Bean” in the mobile space.

“It instantly gives us a more global presence,” said Tiger Aspect managing director Andrew Zein. “Their presence around the world is huge. Instantly we have new-media capabilities that any other indie would kill for.”

Going forward, much of the producer’s output is likely to feed into IMG’s distribution pipepline, although Zein stressed it will most likely continue to work with third parties as well. Currently its programs are handled by a number of distributors, including BBC Worldwide, RDF Rights and Target Entertainment.

Among shows in production at Tiger Aspect are a new series of BBC1 detective drama “Murphy’s Law” and drama series “Robin Hood.”

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