ITV Digital Goes Up for Auction

23 April 2002

The poker game is over; the players have thrown in their cards. And there are no winners.

Except, perhaps, an eventual buyer.

Failure to agree a revised broadcast rights deal with Britain's Football League has prompted ITV’s ruling duo Carlton Communications and Granada Media to put their ailing offspring ITV Digital, currently in administration, up for sale.

Administrator Deloitte & Touche has been instructed to put the moribund digital platform on the market, although Carlton and Granada will continue to fund the operation while a buyer is sought, and broadcast services will continue as usual.

There are believed to be three potential punters: Stephen Grabiner, the former chief executive of ITVd and now a venture capitalist with Apax Partners; ITVd’s current chief executive Stuart Prebble; and a third unidentified party, also thought to be a venture capital group.

The purchase of ITVd is not the poisoned chalice it might at first sight seem. The buyer will be absolved of all current liabilities including the crippling £315m contract with the Football League that precipitated the platform’s downfall.

Instead, the new owner will start with a clean slate, acquiring free of debt the business and its assets: the 1.2 million ITVd customer base, the ‘free’ set-top boxes supplied to subscribers, and the business’s call centres and management team.

Carlton and Granada refute responsibility for the £178.5m of the £315m still owing to the FL, some thirty of whose member clubs could go to the wall as a result of the debacle – or so claims the League. The clubs say they are determined to launch a £500m lawsuit against the ITV twosome; although two years could elapse before the ponderous plod of English law arrives at a hearing – by which time the most vulnerable clubs will be well and truly shuttered.

Investors appeared unmoved by the decision to sell and Carlton and Granada shares on the London Stock Exchange declined marginally, at noon Tuesday respectively £0.015 down at £2.46 and £0.0275 down to £1.2675.

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff