At least two more potential bidders are interested in the 50 per cent of UKTV that the BBC does not own. Virgin Media is looking to sell its 50 per cent stake of the portfolio of channels, which includes popular British channels such as ‘Dave’, ‘Watch’ and ‘Gold’. BBC Worldwide is holding onto its 50 per cent stake as the channels represent a natural outlet for BBC-produced programming.
The new entrants reportedly include Discovery Communications – another natural outlet for BBC material – and Scripps Networks, which also carries BBC programming in the USA, and is on an expansion drive internationally. BSkyB has been widely reported to be interested although it might hit a monopoly wall from the UK competition authorities. ITV has also been said to be a possible interested party.
UKTV was established in 1997 and earned Virgin Media £21 million (E32m) in dividends and debt repayments last year.