BSkyB eyeing Channel 5 stake

Satcaster seeking access to U.K. terrestrial TV

LONDON — BSkyB is in talks to acquire a stake in Channel 5, a move that would give the satcaster a long sought-after foothold in U.K. mainstream television.

The terrestrial is co-owned by RTL Group and United Business Media, which is understood to be looking to sell its 35% holding.

A source told Daily Variety, however, that while there have been exploratory talks with BSkyB they “have not been conclusive in a kind of way” and that RTL and United have had discussions with a number of companies.

Under current regulations, BSkyB – which is 37.5%-owned by News Corp – could own no more than 20% of C5.

But News Corp supremo Rupert Murdoch would unlikely be satisfied with just a minority stake and would want a deal that includes at least some control. That could make an agreement near impossible, the source said.

Murdoch has long coveted a presence in British terrestrial TV. BSkyB unsuccesfully bid for the C5 license in 1995 in a consortium with ITV company Granada.

BSkyB would not comment. An RTL spokesperson said: “Channel 5’s shareholders and management are examining a number of ways to take the channel forward.”

RTL and United have clashed over the degree of investment in C5.

RTL wants to move C5 – which has a viewing share of roughly 6% – further into the mainstream, but United has balked at boosting its programming budget. At £148 million ($217 million) for this year, C5’s budget is roughly a third of that of Channel 4 or BBC2.

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