YTT talks digital with Canal Plus

ITV company Yorkshire-Tyne Tees has held informal talks with French satellite broadcaster Canal Plus about developing a digital service to compete with Rupert Murdoch's pay-TV system.

Any deal arising from the talks, which YTT chairman Ward Thomas characterised as "preliminary", might allow Britain's commercial television broadcasters to distributed digital services without using "conditional access" technology controlled by Mr Murdoch's News Corp. News Corp owns 40 per cent of the UK's successful analogue cable and satellite pay-TV broadcaster BSkyB. Mr Thomas cautioned, however, that digital TV was still a long way off.

YTT's chief executive-designate, Bruce Gyngell, who is former head of London Weekend Television, added: "All the takeovers and mergers in old- fashioned analogue mean you have to ask yourself just how confident people are that digital is going to sweep the world."

Mr Thomas said the company's cash balance, about pounds 30m, was more likely to be used to develop new programming and buy shares in ITN, in which Granada and Carlton hold 36 per cent each. The two have been told by the Independent Television Commission to cut their stakes to 20 per cent each by the end of the year.

The YTT executives' remarks followed the publication last month of the Government's White Paper on digital TV, which heralds the creation of up to 18 new channels, with guaranteed capacity for the existing terrestrial broadcasters. The Government said companies could bid for the right to run "multiplex" providers of digital programming. Mr Thomas said yesterday YTT was likely to bid for a multiplex licence, in partnership with other companies.

BSkyB intends to launch a digital satellite service within a year to 18 months, which some industry observers believe might pre-empt the market for digital terrestrial TV.

YTT's six-month figures yesterday showed pre-tax profits rose to pounds 7.4m from pounds 300,000 last year, when YTT suffered a catastrophic overselling of advertising time, precipitating expensive restructuring and refunds. The interim dividend is 3.7p, up from a nominal 0.1p.

Profitability was still hampered by the company's huge licence fee to the Treasury - the result of what it now admits was an "overbid" at the time of the last licence round in 1992. In the six month period, YTT paid pounds 32m for the Tyne Tees and Yorkshire licences.

Mr Gyngell said the Government's two-licence limit on ITV franchises was "absolutely ludicrous".

YTT has formally advised the Government that a "share of audience" limit made more sense, and suggested a 25 per cent ceiling. That would allow Granada, which now holds 14 per cent of YTT in addition to its two ITV licences for the North and London weekend, to make a bid for the entire company.

Speculation that such a bid might be allowed following a change in policy has helped underpin YTT's rapid rise on the stock market, from 366p at the beginning of the year to 609p yesterday.

Mr Thomas denied, however, that talks had been held between Granada and YTT about an eventual merger, despite speculation in the weekend press.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
election 2015The 10 best quotes of the campaign
A caravan being used as a polling station in Ford near Salisbury, during the 2010 election
election 2015The Independent's guide to get you through polling day
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month
voicesWhat I learnt from my years in government, by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Ashdown Group: Editor-in-chief - Financial Services - City, London

£60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Guru Careers: Management Accountant

£27 - 35k + Bonus + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Management Accountant is needed ...

Guru Careers: Project Manager / Business Analyst

£40-50k + Benefits.: Guru Careers: A Project Manager / Business Analyst is nee...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'