ITV close to deal that will shift shows to Salford

Broadcaster in final talks with Peel Holdings over joining the BBC and others in MediaCityUK hub
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The Independent Online

ITV is close to agreeing terms to consolidate its north-west operations at the MediaCityUK complex in Salford in a deal brokered by its chief executive, Adam Crozier.

The broadcaster is thought to be finally drawing long negotiations with property developer Peel Holdings to an end in a move which will see the long-running soap opera Coronation Street move from its famed outdoors set at Quay Studios.

It is thought that the deal will involve ITV having a purpose-built stand-alone studio facility for the filming of its flagship shows. It will also share some of the top-flight studio space with other broadcasters, such as the BBC, that are clustering in the media hub.

However, in a departure from previous proposed relocation plans, ITV may now accommodate some of its back-office and administration staff in a pre-existing building to help reduce the costs of a move. Using some existing space to accommodate staff could also speed up any potential relocation.

It was reported in January that talks between ITV and Peel were off, but it is now thought that they have continued throughout this period as ITV is keen to ensure it has access to the best technology and studio facilities. Consolidating its operations in the North-west could create a more cost-effective operation.

Peel, which is advised by property services firms WHR and Cushman & Wakefield, has always maintained that a deal with ITV "was never off the table". However, sources said talks have picked up steam since Mr Crozier and John Whittaker, the founder of Peel Holdings, became involved and after the appointment of Archie Norman as ITV chairman.

The new management team is in the middle of implementing a strategic transformation plan to help the broadcaster make savings, bring in new and fresh talent, and reduce its £500m debt tally.

As part of any deal it is likely that ITV will continue to hold its existing studio facilities at Quay Street in central Manchester for the short to medium-term. However, the site could be sold later, as and when values and activity in the property investment market improve. The broadcaster still has a London headquarters, by the Thames, on the South Bank.

No deal has been formally agreed but it is thought an announcement is just weeks away. ITV is still continuing to explore all options while this process is ongoing.

A spokesman for ITV said: "We are examining a number of options regarding ITV's Manchester base to ensure that we have a fit-for-purpose production complex in the North-west."

The £500m MediaCityUK will open in phases during the next 10 years, from the end of this year, and is continuing to attract high-profile occupiers in addition to the BBC. In August it secured Satellite Information Services (SIS) which will relocate from London to occupy a new studio there.

The University of Salford is taking 100,000 sq ft of space at the complex, which is the first purpose-build media community in the UK. When it is complete there will be more than a million square feet of office and studio space, as well as additional retail space.