The television arm of Sony, the Japanese electronics giant, is mulling a takeover bid of more than £600m for All3Media, the production company behind The Only Way Is Essex.
Sony Pictures Television is considering a bid to ramp up its UK production presence but it could face competition for All3Media from others, including Time Warner and NBCUniversal, controlled by Comcast.
All3Media, which is owned by the private equity firm Permira and also produces Midsomer Murders, is poised to kick off a sale process after hiring UBS, the investment bank, to conduct a strategic review.
Permira is believed to want no less than £750m for All3Media. This would represent 12 times the UK production company's forecast underlying earnings of between £63m and £65m for 2011.
Sony did not return calls, while Permira declined to comment.