TWI aims to bag Tiger

Brit indies on table

American-backed TV sports specialist Transworld Intl. is planning a bid for two of the U.K.’s leading indies, Tiger Aspect and Darlow Smithson, to create Blighty’s biggest independent producer with revenues in excess of $280 million.

If the bid is successful, it will radically alter the nature of business for London-based TWI.

Tiger Aspect, whose stockholders include thesp Rowan Atkinson, is one of the U.K.’s most successful entertainment producers, responsible for BBC hit comedies “The Vicar of Dibley” and “The Catherine Tate Show,” a winner at last week’s Royal Television Society program awards.

The combo had a turnover of $75 million in 2005 and profits of $2.55 million.

Reports in local media suggest a price tag of around $42.5 million has been attached to Tiger Aspect, but talks are only at a preliminary stage.

However, TWI, one of Blighty’s biggest indies due to its sports contracts with major broadcasters like the BBC, is believed to be further down the line in buying Darlow Smithson, which specializes in factual shows such as the documentary “Battle of the Somme” and the hit movie “Touching the Void.”

Darlow Smithson is a much smaller company than Tiger Aspect, with revenues of $15.8 million and a profit of $637,500 last year.

Those involved in the negotiations are remaining tight-lipped, but if deals are reached it is likely that both Tiger Aspect and Darlow Smithson would continue as separate outfits under the umbrella of TWI, which produces more than 6,000 hours of sports programming covering more than 240 sports in 200 countries.

TWI, whose veteran CEO Bill Sinrich ankled last month following a dispute about how the company should develop, has made no secret of its ambitions to expand beyond its core sports business.

TWI is owned by the Intl. Management Group, which itself was bought by U.S. investment firm Forstmann Little & Co. for a reported $700 million in 2004.

Blighty’s biggest indie, based on turnover, is All3Media, with a turnover of $267 million.