ITVd Owners Misled Investors, Claims UK Football League

12 April 2002

Britain’s Football League is today (Friday) expected to present evidence to the Financial Services Authority that Carlton Communications and Granada Media misled investors about the performance of their jointly owned dTV platform ITV Digital.

The League (the three soccer divisions below the elite Premier League) is owed £178.5 million (€291.6m; $256.5m) under a broadcast rights deal with ITVd, which went into administration last month claiming it could not find the cash. As a result, the League is trying to get the money out of its owners, Granada and Carlton, which have so far publicly denied any obligation to pay up.

In a move that could lead to a probe of the two media firms by the FSA – Britain’s top financial watchdog – the League will attempt to show that very different pictures of the health of ITVd were given to the London Stock Exchange and the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

Exhibit one is a statement made to the LSE on February 12 this year entitled ITV Digital on Track, wherein Carlton and Granada announced that “ITV Digital's latest subscriber figures … show growth to the end of December continuing in line with the objectives announced in April 2001.”

In contrast, an SEC filing made on March 28 by Carlton (required because some Carlton stock is traded in America) reportedly revealed that “Since December 2001 the operating performance of ITV Digital deteriorated as significant competition in the retail market persisted, alongside general lower levels of new digital TV subscriber sales.”

The League and ITVd are still in negotiations. The High Court will review progress on Monday, the same day rumour suggests the dTV platform will close as its cash runs out.

Data sourced from: BBC Online Business News (UK); additional content by WARC staff