Virgin says goodbye Dave with sale of UKTV stake

 

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The Independent Online

 

Virgin Media has sold off its stake in UKTV, whose channels include Watch, Gold and Dave, following more than a year of speculation. The move marks the end of almost 15 years of the company owning television content.

Virgin announced yesterday that it had sold its 50 per cent stake in the business to Scripps Networks Interactive, a broadcaster based in Tennessee, in a deal worth £239m. Scripps will also pay about £100m to buy the outstanding stock and debt UKTV owes to Virgin Media.

The deal marks the culmination of Virgin's strategy to develop its infrastructure and concentrate on distribution rather than owning content. The Virgin chief executive, Neil Berkett, said: "This will allow us to continue to focus on providing a transformative experience for our customers by developing our core strategic strength – the UK's leading digital network."

A spokeswoman for the company said the strategy was about gaining access to content "but not owning it". She said the company would still pay hundreds of millions of pounds for content to be shown on its video-on-demand service, as well as in carriage agreements.

UKTV was formed in 1997 between BBC Worldwide and Flextech, which would later become Virgin Media Television. It currently has about 36 million viewers a month across 10 lifestyle, entertainment and factual programming channels.

Reports that Virgin was looking tooffload its half of the joint venture with BBC Worldwide, the corporation's commercial arm, have circulated for about 18 months. Last year, Virgin sold a portfolio of channels, including Bravo and Living, to its arch-rival BSkyB.

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