Media Giant Viacom Buys UK’s Channel 5
Huge US media group Viacom is buying England’s fifth terrestrial television channel, Channel 5, and its associative non-terrestrial channels from Richard Desmond’s Northern & Shell group, for a whopping £450 million – £346 million more than it was picked up for four years ago.
Channel 5 was launched back in March 1997, and Northern & Shell bought the channel from German broadcasting group RTL in 2010 for £103-and-a-half million. In a bid to bring popularity back to the channel, Desmond snapped up Big Brother and Celebrity Big Brother from Channel 4, who wanted to pave the way for new and diverse television. These two show are now amongst Channel 5’s most highly viewed, as well as Australian soap operas Home and Away (bought from ITV in 2000) and Neighbours (bought from the BBC in 2007).
Northern & Shell, who also own newspapers Daily Express and Daily Star, put Channel 5 up for sale in January, and more than 20 potential buyers showed their interest in purchasing the channel, including Discovery Communications (owners of The Discovery Channel), BSkyB (British Sky Broadcasting), and obviously, Viacom, among others.
Viacom is probably best known as the owner of MTV, but has more than 20 other branded television channels airing in the UK, such as Comedy Central and Nickelodeon. The company sees Channel 5 as a way to further its reach in the UK, being “one of British television’s biggest brands”, and that the channel would compliment its existing cable networks.
Channel 5 currently has six channels under its brand: the main Channel 5 terrestrial channel, 5*, 5 USA and a +1 channel for each of those, allowing viewers to watch shows an hour later. It is thought that some of these channels could be converted to pay services under the new management, but isn’t likely to cause much disruption.
“Channel 5’s momentum is indisputable,” said Philippe Dauman, Viacom president and chief executive, “with impactful programming, increasing popularity and growing digital platform.” He added that Viacom is pleased to welcome Channel 5’s management and employees to their team as they have done such an outstanding job of building their brand up over the past few years.
Dauman said that the resources and experience at Viacom’s fingertips will be able to help Channel 5 develop even further, as well as being able to provide Viacom’s most popular shows to even more viewers in the UK. Viacom’s niche tends to be with entertainment, children’s and reality television, which will fit in nicely with Channel 5’s existing schedule.
“We are pleased to have agreed the sale of Channel 5 to Viacom,” said Rob Sanderson, Northern & Shell financial director. “Since our acquisition of Channel 5 in 2010, the financial and operating performance of the business has been transformed,” adding that the sale also offers “exciting opportunities for the channel’s future.”