Cue the usual suspects: Liberty Media, Thomson, WPP, Tag and new kid on the block Prime Focus Ltd (PFL), which have all ploughed millions into post-production.
Media investment banker Alun Simpson of Goetz Partners speculated that a new investor in The Mill, post-producer of Doctor Whoand its forthcoming spin-off Torchwood, could be a 'big trade player looking to consolidate'. French technology group Thomson, which bought MPC from ITV for £52.7m in 2004, could be another name in the frame, he said.
According to Nicky Sargent, joint managing director of WPP-owned Farm Group, you have to go big to reap the returns if you invest in post: 'It's the old adage: [the only way] to make a small fortune in post-production is to start with a large one.'
Prime Focus followed this advice earlier this year, buying a majority stake in the VTR group for £4.7m. Another Indian company, Century, is also rumoured to be looking for potential acquisitions in Soho.
Goetz Partners' Simpson, however, sees movement among 'second tier' media groups such as Tag, which owns high-end post facility Smoke & Mirrors and Vertis (owner of Big Buoy post-production). 'Buying smaller players is about consolidating. There are too many players in the market,' he said. Simpson predicts a 'buy and build' strategy in post, where a private equity fund buys large companies (such as The Mill) and acts as a consolidator.
But the question remains: who would want to splurge money on what is seen by many as a cottage industry? According to Penny Verbe, chief executive of Smoke & Mirrors, such a move only makes sense to a buyer that already has a pool of work such as film clients, which it can use to fill its order books.
Besides the obvious candidates such as Thomson and Liberty Media, this would suggest that it may be a film or production company that has The Mill in its sights