UK commercial broadcaster ITV is considering entering into a £1 billion joint venture with the BBC by buying half of multichannel broadcaster UKTV, according to the Daily Telegraph.
UKTV is currently jointly owned by the BBC and US broadcaster Discovery, which acquired the 50 per cent stake when it bought Scripps Interactive Networks for $14.6 billion (€12.44bn), closing the deal in March 2018.
Under the terms of the joint venture, the BBC has the right to buy out its partner at a set price before the end of next week under a 90-day call option which was activated when Discovery acquired Scripps.
It is understood the BBC is exploring a so-called ‘back to back’ deal with ITV in which it would trigger the option and immediately sell the stake, worth up to £500 million, on to ITV. Scripps Networks Interactive paid approximately £239 million to purchase Virgin Media’s 50 per cent stake in August 2011, also paying about £100 million to acquire the outstanding preferred stock and debt owed by UKTV to Virgin Media.
Reports emerged in November 2017 that the BBC, via its BBC Worldwide commercial division, was looking at paying £500 million to take full control of the venture.
ITV’s new chief executive Dame Carolyn McCall has said that acquisitions are high on her agenda, as well as accelerating the broadcaster’s efforts in pay-TV and streaming.
A UKTV owned by the BBC and ITV would create a stronger competitor to streaming giants such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. BBC deputy director general Anne Bulford said in March 2018 that because of the huge changes in the global media market, there was a real threat to British content and that there was a need to explore other potential options to increase the corporation’s income if it was to keep pace with the global players. “We also know that safeguarding British content and protecting public service broadcasting in this country will mean forging closer and better partnerships than ever before,” she concluded.