BSkyB 'in pole position for Virgin channels'

Broadcaster BSkyB is in pole position to land a package of seven digital channels from rival Virgin Media after tabling a huge bid, it was reported today.

BSkyB is said to have offered £160 million for the channels - including Living, Bravo, Challenge and Virgin One - about £60 million more than their nearest rival, the Financial Times reported.

The strong bid - far surpassing offers from other participants including Channel 4, Time Warner and RTL - could create a headache for the seller.

Virgin Media - which is said to be selling the channels to help pay debts of £5.9 billion - may be reluctant to sell the channels to its fiercest rival, the FT says.

BSkyB and Virgin clashed in 2007 in a legal battle over how much they would pay each other to host their "own-brand" channels.

BSkyB argued in court pleadings that Virgin's channels were almost worthless to its subscribers, despite its huge reported bid today.

Virgin says its seven channels - which span pay and free-to-air television reach more than 24 million adult viewers every month.

The firm launched Virgin One in October 2007 although channels such as Living and Bravo came from the former ntl/Telewest business. This in turn merged with Virgin Mobile in 2007 and was then rebranded as Virgin Media.

The Living channel is described as the "ultimate entertainment destination in pay television, full of guilty pleasures and trashy glamour", while Virgin 1 - "intelligent tabloid TV at its best" - hosts shows such as Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.

Virgin Media also offers customers broadband and telephone services alongside TV channels. In recent quarterly results, the firm added that a record 57% of its customers now took all three of its services.

BSkyB and Virgin Media both declined to comment on the FT's story.

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