Britain's Five Channel Talks to US Cable Investor

18 March 2004

The owners of UK terrestrial TV channel Five are reportedly in talks with US cable investor Bill Huff.

Huff owns around 20% of Telewest, which operates a pay-TV platform in the UK and owns five digital channels through its Flextech subsidiary. The fund manager has two representatives on the company's board, and also owns 14% of rival cable firm NTL.

Huff is said to have met with executives of Bertelsmann-owned pan-European broadcaster RTL Group, which holds 65% of Five, and Lord Clive Hollick, boss of United Business Media, which owns the rest.

An insider described the talks as "thoughts rather than discussions", and it is far from clear what any deal would involve.

One possibility is an airtime sales alliance between Five and Flextech's sales house IDS. This would allow the two to compete more effectively with the newly merged ITV, which controls over 50% of Britain's TV ad market. Five and Telewest could also collaborate on programming and distribution.

Data sourced from: multiple sources; additional content by WARC staff