Monday Switch-Off for ITV Digital?

09 April 2002

The sands of time are running out for Britain's only terrestrial digital platform, ITV Digital, jointly owned by ITV network’s controlling shareholders Carlton Communications and Granada Media.

ITVd, now in administration under Deloitte & Touche, has received a further injection of £20 million ($28.65m; €32.68m) in cash from the TV duo to keep it afloat until April 15 when London’s High Court will receive a progress report from the administrator.

The key issue standing between ITVd’s survival and fade to black is that of the £89.25m soccer rights contract with the Football League which the broadcaster is desperate to renegotiate downward. Thus far the soccer body is unprepared to bend – publicly at least – and threatens to sue ITVd’s parents for payment if they don’t shell-out on behalf of their ailing offspring.

Meantime, in best TV tradition, rumour within the ITV wagon circle is that a man in a big white hat could gallop onto the scene in the nick of time waving a sack of crisp pound notes. No mysterious stranger he … for it is … none other than … brace yourselves, folks …

Stephen Grabiner, quondam chief executive of ITVd (then known as ONdigital), and now transmogrified into a venture capitalist with Apax Partners. He and his brother Michael Grabiner (also an Apax white hat) are said to be interested in forming a rescue consortium that may or may not also include … yuh ain’t heer’d nuthin’ yet, pard …dastardly black-hats Carlton and Granada!

Grabiner believes, according to a Financial Times report, that a bid would make sense if ITVd customers pay for their set-top boxes – currently offered free with the service. The cost of the boxes (said to be more than £150 each) is a crippling financial burden on ITVd – and the issue over which Grabiner and Carlton’s mercurial chairman Michael Green went eyeball-to-eyeball, leading to the former's resignation in July 1999.

Data sourced from: The Times (London) and BrandRepublic (UK); additional content by WARC staff