New regs may open Five doors

UBM mulls strategic alliances for b'caster

LONDON — Clive Hollick, chief executive of United Business Media, a minority shareholder in U.K. commercial web Five, has cast doubt over the group’s long-term commitment to the channel.

Hollick said the recent passing of the Communications Bill opened up the possibility of it finding “strategic alliances.”

Rupert Murdoch has long wanted to break into Blighty’s terrestrial market but continues to deny any interest in Five, in which European broadcaster RTL has a 65% stake with UBM owning the remaining 35% share.

Changes in Blighty’s media ownership rules, which lift the ban on national newspaper owners having stakes in Five, pave the way for Murdoch’s News Intl., which owns the U.K.’s four dominant papers, including the Times and mass circulation tabloid the Sun, to invest in Five. His News Corp. already has a 36.6% stake in BSkyB.

While Hollick said he remained committed to the further growth of the channel, he admitted that his company’s main ambition remained “to build value and realize it at the right time.”

Hollick’s words appeared to come as a surprise to RTL, which said it had not talked about any further partnerships. RTL has been keen to raise its stake in Five as it’s RTL’s best performer. Its revenues increased 21.6% to $275 million in 2002 and its ad share is 7.5%, ahead of its 6.5% audience share.

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