On the heels of buying the BBC out of its international business, Discovery now seems the favourite to buy UKTV from Virgin Media.
The channel line up has been on the block for some time, and not for the first time, but reports say the same old problems in closing a deal persist: the complexity of the digital programme rights within the venture and (not least because of this) winning the blessing of UKTV partner the BBC. Virgin Media values its stake in UKTV, the pay-TV business formed in 1997 as a 50/50 joint venture with the BBC’s commercial arm, at about £350 million (€413m) including outstanding loans of £116 million.
The viability of the business relies on its long term deal for BBC catalogue rights and one suggestion is BBC Worldwide could increase its stake making any new shareholder the junior partner.
Alongside Discovery, Scripps Networks is said to be still in the running. It focuses on lifestyle media and owns US TV brands including The Cooking Channel and The DIY Network.