Disney may sell GMTV stake

Move would increase ITV's dominance of Brit TV

LONDON — Walt Disney is mulling the sale of its 25% stake in Blighty’s only commercial breakfast TV station, GMTV, to majority shareholder ITV.

On Tuesday Disney and ITV, formed three months ago from the merger of Carlton and Granada, emerged as the two remaining stockholders in GMTV after ITV paid $53 million for the Scottish Media Group’s 25% stake in the broadcaster.

ITV now controls 75% of GMTV, whose children’s programs, including weekend blocks, are supplied by Disney.

However, the Hollywood studio has an option to bid for 33% of the SMG stake being sold.

A Disney spokesman in London refused to be drawn on future plans, saying GMTV was a “profitable and well-managed investment that we are happy with.”

The move will further consolidate Blighty’s commercial TV sector, now dominated by ITV.

ITV’s CEO Charles Allen said buying SMG’s stake would “simplify the ownership structure and enable more agile decisionmaking.”

Many observers believe that cost-cutting at the breakfast station would be inevitable if ITV became GMTV’s sole owner.

In such circumstances, ITV might negotiate an output deal with Disney to allow the program mix to remain unchanged.

In recent months there’s been speculation that ITV and Disney might join forces to launch a U.K. children’s channel.

It’s unclear how the move would affect this.