Select Joins Mai Group’s Bid For ITV Franchise

SelecTV, Britain’s most prolific producer of comedy programs, will take a substantial minority stake in the consortium that is bidding for a Channel 3 franchise.

Consortium, led by financial group MAI, has not decided on the franchise to bid for, but Allan McKeown, managing director of SelecTV, indicated that it is likely to be one of the so-called big six.

Fifteen regional franchises and one nationwide breakfast-time channel are up for auction. McKeown suggested that the consortium may bid for more than one franchise.

Exec notes that MAI’s financial resources and SelecTV’s program-making ability make for a potent combination. He dismisses the moans of other would-be bidders that the auction, which was to have been conducted on a simple highest-bid basis but is now complicated by regulations, has been skewed in favor of the incumbent ITV companies. He says that new entrants have plenty of advantages, not the least of which is carrying a much lower overhead burden than the existing broadcasters.

But like other indie producers, McKeown is worried about stockholding rules that could put a cap on SelecTV’s ownership of a commercial broadcaster. The company recently entered into a longterm production deal with the BBC, guaranteeing at least one comedy series a year. This deal would be scuppered if SelecTV loses its cherished indie status and is deemed a broadcaster.

Ownership rules have yet to be defined, and McKeown indicated that the size of SelecTV’s stake in the MAI consortium would be geared to ensure its indie status.

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