British free-to air digital broadcasting platform Freeview now awaits two sweetened final bids for its newly available TV channel slot.
The contestants have been whittled down to the UK's largest commercial broadcaster ITV and state owned but commercially funded Channel 4.
The pair beat off interest from UK terrestrial broadcaster Five and US groups Disney, Turner Broadcasting and NBC Universal [WAMN: 3-Feb-2005].
The 18-hour daily slot is available from April 1 and will be awarded initially as a twelve month contract. The winner is expected to pay around £5 million a year ($9.5m, €7.2m).
Freeview, an increasingly popular platform now viewed by more than five million UK households, is a partnership between the BBC, US-owned terrestrial transmission monopoly Crown Castle Communications, and Rupert Murdoch's BSkyB.
A settop box, retailing at a once-only payment of around £50, allows access to thirty dTV channels and twenty digital radio stations.
ITV and Channel 4 both are keen to expand their free-to-air channels and, as commercial broadcasters, will benefit from the greater audience share enjoyed on Freeview compared with cable and satellite platforms offered by NTL, Telewest and BSkyB.
The board of Crown Castle, which owns the available bandwidth, will shortly decide between the rival bids.
Data sourced from MediaGuardian.co.uk; additional content by WARC staff