By yesterday’s 5pm deadline, Britain’s Independent Television Commission had received six confirmed expressions of interest in the three digital terrestrial broadcasting licences formerly held by failed platform ITV Digital.
Five of the interested parties – the BBC, commercial network ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and US broadcasting transmission firm SDN – are also members of the much touted coalition to provide a free-to-air dTV service.
The quintet were planning a joint submission for the licences, but have been unable to reach an agreement – reportedly due to arguments between the BBC and ITV over how many channels each should get. Each party has therefore expressed an interest separately, but they are expected to use the next two weeks (before final proposals are due) to try to hammer out a single bid.
However, they face an unexpected rival in the shape of four-year-old Scottish call centre company MGt, the sixth party to throw its hat into the ring. The company, a provider of subscriber management services, is planning a new pay-TV operation using the licences, providing a platform for content from other media groups.
The ITC has stated that it would prefer to find a pay-TV operator for digital terrestrial television, but also conceded that if no viable candidate fitting this criterion came forward, then a free-to-air option would be considered.
The terrestrial broadcasters, in particular the BBC, are keen to protect their investment in dTV by organising a free-to-air service. ITV’s involvement in the coalition marks a rapid return to the digital arena for dominant shareholders Carlton Communications and Granada Media, owners of ITV Digital, which collapsed last month after failing to honour a soccer rights contract.
Data sourced from: BrandRepublic (UK); The Times (London); MediaGuardian.co.uk; additional content by WARC staff