Former Flextech assets could be sold

Blighty cabler Virgin Media is reviewing its portfolio in a move that could lead to the country’s largest auction of channels since the emergence of multichannel television.

Goldman Sachs is conducting the review, according to reports in local media.

If Virgin, which last week reported a net loss of $323.1 million for the last quarter of 2007, decides to go ahead with the dispersal, channels up for grabs would include Living TV, Bravo and Virgin’s half stake in UKTV, Blighty’s biggest pay TV operator after BSkyB.

Analysts reckon the sale could raise $1.5 billion for Virgin, which has said it wants to concentrate on high-speed broadband rather than premium content.

Those believed to be interested in buying are BSkyB; pan-European broadcasting giant RTL, owner of Five in the U.K.; and NBC Universal, in the throes of expanding its activities outside the U.S.

UKTV, half-owned by BBC Worldwide, is regarded as the most attractive asset in Virgin’s portfolio. It operates nine channels, including UKTV Gold and the recently rebranded Dave, a big success in Blighty.

Three years ago, Telewest, which merged with NTL to form Virgin Media, tested the market for these channels, then held under the Flextech banner, but a sale failed to materialize. It is possible that Virgin may retain parts of its channel operation or even hit the acquisitions trail.

Any dispersal that includes UKTV is complicated because of a change-of-control clause that gives BBC Worldwide the right to veto any new partner.

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