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UKTV signs talk show couple

Cable net lures Richard and Judy from Channel 4

LONDON — In an unusual move, British pay TV channel operator UKTV, owned by the BBC and Virgin Media, has signed the presenters of one of Blighty’s most high-profile talk shows.

The influential husband and wife duo of Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan — their book club recommendations invariably become best sellers — are to host a daily peak time show on what UKTV said will be a “new look channel” that will bow later this year.

The move looks like an attempt to future proof UKTV’s business model, which is based on reruns of high-profile shows, principally from the BBC.

As on-demand TV kicks in, UKTV will need to commission more of its own fare — hence securing a contract with Richard and Judy — or risk auds defecting to new media services.

UKTV controller Matthew Littleford said: “To have brought the king and queen of British telly to UKTV, and to be working closely with them to develop a show that will be the most talked about in TV, clearly demonstrates the magnitude of our ambition to drive differentiation for our pay-TV partners in 2008 and beyond.”

UKTV’s portfolio includes UKTV Gold, and webs dedicated to drama, history and style, plus Dave, its iconic rebranding aimed at male auds under 35.

Richard and Judy, as the wholesome pair are known in Blighty, first came to fame as a cornerstone of ITV1’s daytime line-up, but were later poached by rival Channel 4.

Last fall the duo announced they would exit Channel 4 this summer.

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