Virgin sells £339m TV stake

Telecoms giant Virgin Media has sold its stake in UKTV - home of channels including Dave, Gold and Yesterday - to a US broadcaster for £339 million.

The 50% stake has been bought by Tennessee-based Scripps Network Interactive, which runs US lifestyle TV brands such as Food Network and Cooking Channel.



The deal will give the BBC, which through its subsidiary BBC Worldwide owns the remaining 50% stake, the chance to push its holding up to 60%.



Virgin, which runs broadband, cable and phone services in the UK, sold its own channels, which included Bravo and Virgin 1, to rival Sky in a £160 million deal last year.









UKTV was formed in 1997 as a joint venture between the BBC and ITV venture Thames Television, primarily to show BBC repeats on a single channel, UK Gold.

The company went through several changes in ownership and is now one of the UK's largest broadcasters, with up to 36 million viewers a month.



A spokeswoman for UKTV said the deal was not a content agreement so viewers can expect business as usual once the change in ownership is completed.



BBC Worldwide chief executive John Smith said: "The new agreement we are developing will bring benefits to UKTV's audiences in the way they can consume content and will help to sustain UKTV's track record of growth."



Scripps Networks, which also develops content on the internet, already supplies some content to UKTV's channels.



Scripps chairman, president and chief executive Kenneth Lowe said: "UKTV is a significant opportunity for Scripps Networks Interactive to participate in a thriving multi-channel, dual-revenue stream media business in one of the world's largest television markets."



Virgin had already been looking for up to £350 million for UKTV, including £100 million of debt owed by UKTV.



Virgin Media 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 - alongside our leading entertainment services."

PA

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