TV oldies project finds US backer

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The Independent Online
THAMES Television and the BBC have found a backer for their satellite TV venture, UK Gold, which proposes to show repeats from the two groups' archives.

Cox Enterprises, which owns the United States's sixth-largest cable TV operator, has agreed to underwrite the full pounds 35m needed to launch the venture. In exchange it will take a 65 per cent stake, leaving Thames with 15 per cent and the BBC with 20 per cent.

The three partners hope to have the service on air next year. It is to be run by Derek Lewis, who was ousted as chief executive of Granada Group last year.

Thames, which loses its ITV franchise on 31 December, is also backing the only consortium that has put in a bid for Channel 5, the new national TV network. It is looking for further partners, and it is believed that Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian TV mogul, may invest.

TV-am, which pulled out of a consortium bidding for Channel 5 just before the bids were to go in, produced strong half-year results on the back of cost-cutting measures and said it expects to have more than pounds 50m in the bank when its franchise is withdrawn on 31 December.

Pre-tax profits in the six months to 30 June rose by a half to pounds 9.05m, despite pounds 2.56m spent on redundancies. Earnings per share rose from 6.5p to 8.2p, though the dividend is unchanged at 4p.

TV-am's staff has fallen to 150 from 400 and is likely to be fewer than 50 next year. The company has cash of around pounds 40m and this is expected to rise to more than pounds 50m, which will be available for investment in media ventures.

However TV-am said it would invest in projects only where it could provide some management expertise.

Anglia TV benefited from a large drop in its exchequer levy in reporting pre-tax profits for the six months to 30 June up from pounds 3.07m to pounds 4.83m.

Earnings rose from 4.35p to 7.04p and the dividend is unchanged at 2.86p.

The levy was cut from pounds 3.47m to just pounds 732,000 because of changes in the way it is calculated.