Desmond comes to the rescue of Five with £104m deal

The media tycoon Richard Desmond last night sealed his takeover of Five, the channel whose hit shows include CSI and Neighbours, in a deal worth £103.5m.

The deal closed with immediate effect, transferring ownership to Northern & Shell (N&S), the publishing group owned by Mr Desmond. "This is a major acquisition and a long-term project," said Mr Desmond, who claimed that he would "invest heavily in talent and content both in the programming we already have and in home-grown programming".

Mr Desmond went on to say that Coronation Street, The X Factor and Panorama were all programmes he would like the channel to broadcast.

Asked if he was asking the BBC to make shows for his network, he said: "Well, why not, why not? Why can't we have Panorama on Channel Five? It's a jolly good programme."

He added: "Channel Five has proved itself to be a credible and competitive British broadcaster with some of the most sought-after programmes from home and overseas.

"I'm delighted to have taken ownership of the network and I know that, with the right investment, drive and leadership, it can go from strength to strength as a competitive broadcaster and a modern player for the digital consumer."

Mr Desmond owns the Daily Express and Sunday Express national newspapers as well as the Daily Star and its Sunday counterpart, and the celebrity lifestyle magazine OK!. Northern & Shell also owns a series of adult television channels, including the subscription channel Television X – The Fantasy Channel. The group has also expanded into "pay-per-night" with its Red Hot channels. European legislation means Mr Desmond will not be able to promote his print titles on Five. He will, however, be able to back the broadcaster in his publications.

The former parent company, the Luxembourg-based RTL Group, had become frustrated with Five's performance as it struggled through the downturn. A source close to the company said it had come to a point where RTL had to "invest or sell – and the opportunity to sell was too good to pass up". The source said RTL was happy with the price it received, which is "higher than the value of the assets".

"With a significant recovery of the UK TV advertising market and Five performing well in the first half of 2010, we saw a window of opportunity to realise a transaction based on a fair evaluation of Five," said Gerhard Zeiler, the RTL chief executive.

Claire Enders, founder of Enders Analysis, said: "Desmond is someone who has a real interest in the media. He is an innovative entrepreneur. The edge he has is the free publicity in the Star, OK! and the Express. He will build the buzz and the glamour in the publications, which is something the channel has been sorely lacking."

Mr Desmond has pledged to keep Five as a public-service broadcaster. This means a prime slot on the electronic programme guide, but the broadcaster must pledge to screen a certain amount of news and current affairs programming.

He revealed he will pay the £20m cost of Five's participation in Project Canvas, the joint venture with partners including the BBC, Channel 4 and BT, to bring online catch-up TV to the living room set. Five had walked away from the venture earlier this year.

Mr Desmond cleared the takeover with the media watchdog Ofcom earlier this week, and is expected to be called in front of the House of Commons culture committee, who will quiz him on his plans for the channel.

Five launched to great fanfare in 1997, backed by Pearson Television, United Business Media, Warburg Pincus and CLT-Ufa. CLT and Pearson later merged to form RTL, which subsequently took 100 per cent ownership. The group initially made its name in soft porn movies, football and action films, an image that the current chairman and chief executive Dawn Airey has worked hard to shed.

Recently it has struggled and in the last financial year, RTL was forced to write off more than half of the value of its UK operations. Five's earnings had fallen 30 per cent to £250m and the management was forced into a brutal cost-cutting programme, slashing 87 jobs from 354 staff, cutting £65m in costs. It had been hit particularly hard by the onset of the downturn which saw advertising plunge 12.5 per cent in 2009.

Ms Enders concluded: "Mr Desmond will be able to build market share at the channel through investment and cross-promotion, but will Five ever be a competitor to ITV? Hell no."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Israeli-born actress Gal Gadot has been cast to play Wonder Woman
film
News
Top Gear presenter James May appears to be struggling with his new-found free time
people
Arts and Entertainment
Kendrick Lamar at the Made in America Festival in Los Angeles last summer
music
Arts and Entertainment
'Marley & Me' with Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Hamm (right) and John Slattery in the final series of Mad Men
tv
Arts and Entertainment
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
art
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

TV
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor