BBC Worldwide has made a preliminary approach to Virgin Media to purchase the cablenet’s share of the UKTV joint venture, according to The Sunday Telegraph. Formal talks are yet to commence on the stake, which is valued at £370 million.
The joint venture includes the eight UKTV branded channels, though of the portfolio that includes UKTV Food and the recently rebranded Dave, only UKTV Gold remains from the original line-up.
A purchase by the BBC’s commercial arm would spell a significant change in strategy for the channels that BBC Worldwide believes could increase advertising revenues by taking the channels free-to-air. Already UKTV History and Dave are included as part of the Freeview line-up and these could be joined by UKTV Gold, an echo of BBC One’s primetime schedule, though including some acquired programming such as the US version of Dancing with the Stars.
In 2005, Virgin Media withdrew the sale of all of its TV channel ventures that include the wholly owned Bravo, Trouble and Virgin 1 (the relaunched FTN). The auction reputedly bids of up to £1.2 billion.