Fininvest may share stake in U.K.’s new Channel 5

Silvio Berlusconi’s Fininvest has re-emerged as a possible investor in the United Kingdom’s new Channel 5, after abandoning plans to bid for the license six months ago.

Fininvest execs are in negotiations with the sole bidder, Channel 5 Holdings, about taking a major stake.

The venture currently has only one backer, Thames TV.

The Independent Television Commission is due to decide whether to award the license to Channel 5 Holdings in November. In order to stand a good chance of success, Thames, which has only a 15% stake, needs to find a substantial co-investor before then.

The deal under discussion would give Fininvest subsidiary Publitalia control over Channel 5’s airtime sales, andinfluence in the programming strategy.

However, Fininvest execs have always maintained that the company will invest in Channel 5 only if they have complete management control.

Fininvest’s original plan for the channel involved a national mass entertainment service, with heavy investment in original drama programming, whereas Channel 5 Holdings is proposing a chain of city TV stations, modeled on Toronto’s CityTV. It is unclear how these two views could be easily reconciled.

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