BBC Turns to US for UKTV Partner

12 October 2005

Publicly-funded UK broadcaster the BBC could be looking across the Atlantic for a new partner in its UKTV cable venture.

The TV channel is currently a 50/50 undertaking with Flextech, the content arm of cable firm Telewest, now in process of merging with rival NTL [WAMN: 04-Oct-05].

However, the change in ownership triggers the BBC's right to buy back Telewest's shares in Flextech, leaving the door open for a new partnership.

To this end, BBC Worldwide ceo John Smith is poised to talk with some of the operators that bid in the intriguing - and subsequently abandoned - auction of Flextech immediately prior to announcement of the NTL merger.

Among the interested stateside parties are believed to be Discovery, Viacom and Time Warner.

Sources say Discovery would be the BBC's preferred choice of Flextech partner, the twosome already being three years into a 10-year global joint venture to develop TV channels and factual programming.

The partnership has also developed jointly-owned TV channels, including Animal Planet, which already reach more than 80 million homes in the US, Latin America, Asia-Pacific and Europe.

In addition, Discovery is the marketing and distribution partner and advertising sales house for BBC America, the broadcaster's wholly-owned entertainment and news cable network.

Data sourced from Media Week (UK); additional content by WARC staff