Inside Move: Carser-Werner mulls sale

Studio to explore different strategic alliances, partnerships

Carsey-Werner-Mandabach could soon lose its status as Hollywood’s biggest remaining independent TV studio.

Company behind hits from “That ’70s Show” to “The Cosby Show” has hired investment banking firm UBS Warburg to determine how much coin the company might be worth if sold.

While rumors about a sale or merger have surrounded C-W-M for years, insiders concede the studio’s three partners are giving the idea of a sale or partnership serious thought.

Television Week magazine, which first reported news of UBS Warburg’s hiring, reported the three execs are “looking to move on.” Co-founder Tom Werner, however, said the C-W-M trio aren’t preparing to get out of the TV business.

“As we have done in the past, we are exploring the possibility of different strategic alliances or partnerships,” he said in a statement released Monday. “This in no way changes the fact that we are still very bullish and excited about continuing to produce meaningful content.”

C-W-M laid off about 25% of its staff two years ago and has remained a lean operation. It has two pilots in contention for Fox’s midseason sked, but NBC laffers “Whoopi” and “Tracey Morgan” are considered unlikely to return for second seasons. On the feature side, C-W-M is in the middle of a three-year first-look deal with Par.

Company’s “That ’70s Show” remains a financial powerhouse in primetime and syndication, while “Grounded for Life” is closing in on a syndie sale, industry insiders said.