ITV Digital Makes Eyes at BSkyB

01 October 2001

The course of true love never did run smooth, as Shakespeare’s lovers discovered in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’.

The Bard may also have been referring to the unlikely romance that appears to be blossoming between ITV Digital and BSkyB after three years of bitter rivalry. At least, so suggests a report in Britain's Sunday Times – a newspaper whose source on this occasion should be impeccable as it, along with BSkyB, are siblings in Rupert Murdoch’s media stable.

Cash rather than Cupid is brokering the romance. According to the Sunday Times, although discussions are at an early stage they may lead to BSkyB taking a stake in the debt-beset ITV Digital – which is estimated to have cost principal shareholders Carlton Communications and Granada Media over £400 million to date. The cash drain has been exacerbated by plummeting ad revenues and the reluctance of ITV Digital subscribers to stump up for the broadcaster’s premium interactive services.

Assuming that the star-cross’d lovers do decide to plight their troth, the course of true love could, alack, be further impeded by killjoys such as the UK Office of Fair Trading and the European Commission.

The latter has already intervened in the Sky/ITV romance some four years ago when BSkyB – a founding partner in British Digital Broadcasting, the company that eventually transformed into ITV Digital – was forced by a European intervention to sell its stake.

News sources: The Sunday Times; BBC Online Business News (UK)