Emap, the media and exhibitions group, is in talks with Richard Branson's Virgin Century Television about forming a partnership to expand its television interests. The deal would see Emap developing an array of programmes in-house which Virgin Century's chief executive, Jeremy Fox, would sell in the UK and abroad.
One option which is currently under consideration, although no decision has yet been reached, is to create programmes around some of Emap's high- profile magazine brands.
Emap owns titles such as Just Seventeen, Max Power and the highly successful FHM, which outsold its nearest rival, Loaded, for the first time earlier this year.
"Masthead programming" - naming a television programme after a magazine - is permitted on cable and satellite television, but not on terrestrial stations. However, the Independent Television Commission is to consider whether magazine brands could be extended on to terrestrial television next spring.
Mr Fox said last night: "Emap is the sort of partner I'm looking for. We can help distribute their product, both at home and abroad."
Tim Schoonmaker, chief executive of Emap Radio, is overseeing Emap's development into television. "We're thinking how we can get more involved in television without wasting a lot of money," he said.
Both Virgin and Emap have dabbled in television, but are now keen to expand aggressively. Virgin Century Television, Mr Branson's fledgling production and distribution arm, announced a joint venture with CBS Broadcast International last month, and Emap acquired The Box, a music cable channel at the end of last year.
- Cathy Newman
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