Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox and private equity giant Apollo Global Management are in preliminary talks to create a global television production house that would manage big hits like "American Idol" and "Deal or No Deal."
The deal would combine Fox's Shine Group as well as the Apollo-controlled Endemol and Core Media Group. The joint venture would be one of the largest reality TV producers in the world, controlling franchises like "Master Chef," "The Biggest Loser" and "Big Brother."
Joining forces would buttress both companies during a period of intense consolidation in the production industry, particularly among firms that specialize in unscripted shows. A number of deals were announced last week among broadcasters seeking to expand content and increase audience share.
"This gives them access to newer programming ideas and exposes them to the possibility of other concepts," said veteran media analyst Hal Vogel, "and may save them some money too."
Last week, cable programmer Discovery Communications and media giant Liberty Global agreed to buy British television producer All3Media in a $930-million deal. British broadcaster ITV also announced it would take an 80% stake in television producer Leftfield Productions for $360 million.
Although a tentative deal between Fox and Apollo has been struck, the companies cautioned that a final agreement is no certainty.
Still undetermined are which executives would have prominent roles in the new entity should the combination go through and whether positions would be eliminated. Some back-office operations could be combined, the executives said.
Spokespeople for both companies confirmed the talks.
"The devil is in the details," said Russ Kagan, an international programming consultant. "There will be a lot of negotiation about the value of the assets each party is putting into the venture."
For Apollo, teaming with Fox is the latest step in its efforts to become a force in the programming business. In 2011, it bought the company CKX, now known as Core Media Group, for $509 million. Core is a producer of "American Idol" and "So You Think You Can Dance," which air on Fox.
Apollo has been looking to combine its TV production holdings and find a partner to help its global ambitions. In 2012, it flirted with putting Core and Endemol under one roof in a deal that would have included an investment from Hollywood heavyweight Peter Chernin. But those talks fell apart.
For 21st Century Fox, the potential partnership will boost Shine's global prowess as both a seller and a buyer of programming.
Founded by Murdoch's daughter Elisabeth in 2001, Shine owns 26 production companies that serve 11 countries. In 2011, Elisabeth Murdoch sold Shine to her father's News Corp. for $675 million.
It is now a unit of 21st Century Fox, which was spun off from News Corp. Elisabeth Murdoch is still the chairwoman of Shine.
Shine's shows in the U.S. include the unscripted hits "The Biggest Loser" on NBC and "MasterChef" on Fox. It also makes the drama "The Bridge" for the cable network FX and is producing the highly anticipated Fox drama "Gracepoint" that will premiere this fall.
Key Shine executives besides Murdoch include Chief Executive Alex Mahon and Chief Operating Officer Tim Robinson.
Core's leadership includes President Marc Graboff, a former top executive at NBCUniversal, and Jennifer O'Connell, who heads its U.S. TV operations.
Endemol's top executives are Chief Executive Just Spee and President Tim Hincks.