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BBC bids to take over UKTV

Corp. will try to buy out Virgin Media

LONDON — BBC Worldwide, the pubcaster’s commercial arm, is considering buying out Virgin Media’s stake in UKTV, Blighty’s second biggest provider of pay TV channels after BSkyB.

In another sign of Worldwide’s increasingly aggressive stance that in the fall saw the operator acquire 75% of travel specialist Lonely Planet, it is understood the BBC recently made a preliminary approach to Virgin.

Virgin Media’s investment in UKTV, which it inherited from Flextech, is valued at $740 million including a $300 million loan.

So far it is believed that no formal talks between the two parties have taken place.

UKTV, formed in 1997 by the BBC and Flextech, then owned by Telewest, runs nine channels, including oldies web, UKTV Gold, and Dave, recently rebranded to appeal to male-skewed auds.

Most of the UKTV channels are available on pay platforms like BSkyB.

Worldwide, however, apparently thinks services like UKTV Gold, which rely on re-runs of high-profile BBC fare, could be more successful were they made available on Freeview, the leading U.K. DTT platform.

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