U.S. media giant Viacom will buy British public service broadcaster Channel 5 for £450 million (or US$757 million), pending regulatory approval.
The company – which owns U.S. cable nets MTV, VH1, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon – will acquire the commercial channel from British businessman Richard Desmond’s Northern & Shell Media Group. Unscripted programming airing on Channel 5 includes Big Brother, Ice Road Truckers and Britain’s Crime Capitals.
Desmond bought the channel from previous owner RTL for £103.5 million (US$172 million) in 2010. He initially sought £700 million in January and reportedly attracted several prospective buyers, including Discovery Communications and UK pay-TV operation BskyB.
In a statement, Viacom president and CEO Philippe Dauman said the acquisition would accelerate the company’s strategy in the UK and introduce its existing programming to British viewers on-air and online.
“This deal will dramatically increase Viacom’s investment in content produced in the UK, which has a widely admired public service broadcasting culture and a globally influential production sector,” he said. “We look forward to partnering with local producers to introduce more UK-created content to global audiences, and will continue to explore opportunities in the UK, both in the free-to-air and pay television markets.”
Launched in 1997 as the UK’s fifth public service broadcaster, Channel 5 garners more than 42 million monthly viewers. Viacom will also acquire Channel 5 brands 5*, 5USA, Milkshake! and Demand 5.