Scripps Networks Interactive will acquire the half share in UKTV owned by Virgin Media for £239 million plus £100 million in outstanding debt. On completion, BBC Worldwide, which owns the other half of UKTV will have the option to increase its shareholding to up to 60 percent. Virgin Media is pulling out of programme production to concentrate on its distribution network, which it sees as its main asset.
Scripps Networks Interactive runs channels including the Food Channel, Cooking Channel and Travel Channel, complemented by online video, social media and electronic commerce on companion web sites.
UKTV channel brands include Home, Good Food, Dave, Watch, Gold, Alibi, Eden, Blighty, Yesterday and Really, featuring a combination of previously transmitted BBC shows and original programming. The portfolio of channels has been progressively rebranded away from the original UKTV network of channels that developed out of UK Gold.
“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,” said Kenneth W. Lowe, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Scripps Networks Interactive. “Making a solid investment in UKTV and entering into a strong partnership with BBC Worldwide reinforces our core international strategy which we believe will create significant long-term value for our shareholders.”
Virgin Media has been looking to sell its stake in UKTV for several years as it pulls out of programme production, having sold its own channels to Sky for £160 million a year previously. Issues around advertising sales and the exploitation of online rights have complicated the sale.
Neil Berkett, the chief executive of Virgin Media, 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.”
Darren Childs, the chief executive of UKTV, recently appointed Emma Tennant from ITV as controller of the channel portfolio, saying: “UKTV is embarking on another renaissance following our phenomenally successful rebrand”.