Liberty Global has acquired a 6.4% stake in ITV at a cost of £481 million, purchasing the remaining holding in the company by BSkyB, and linking Virgin Media with the UK’s leading commercial broadcaster that’s home to popular shows Coronation Street and Broadchurch.
“This is an opportunistic and attractive investment for us in our largest cable market. ITV is the leading commercial broadcaster in the UK and we’re excited to be shareholders,” said Liberty Global CEO Mike Fries.
The acquisition is being funded by a loan linked to a hedging transaction that will be secured by ITV shares and existing finance.
Last October Liberty Global sold its content arm Chellomedia to AMC Networks.
From its vantage point Virgin will be able to view recent exclusive deals between ITV and BSkyB over the carriage of new launches ITVbe and ITV Encore.
When BSkyB acquired its 17% stake in ITV for £940 million in 2006 there was a huge uproar. Virgin founder Richard Branson accused Rupert Murdoch’s media empire of being a “threat to democracy”.
The issue was referred to the Competition Commission in 2007. BSkyB was ordered to cut its stake to below 7.5%, saying the purchase gave the company undue influence in the UK media and was not in the public interest.
Liberty Global’s holding is at a level that will not trouble the regulators.