Britain's commercial TV watchdog, the Independent Television Commission, on Thursday revoked ITV Digital’s pay-TV licence, thereby switching off all but the platform’s free to air channels supplied by the BBC and ITV.
The licence will be put up for re-tender – a process that normally takes several months but will this time receive fast-track treatment resulting in the granting of a new contract within six weeks.
The ITC’s move has been expected since administrators acting for the moribund broadcaster failed earlier this week to reach a compromise solution with the Football League over a £315 million ($457.5m; €510.26m) broadcast rights contract that ITVd could no longer afford to honour.
In a statement yesterday the administrator, accountancy firm Deloitte & Touche, announced that it now seeks a buyer for the platform, adding: “However, [we] will discuss with the major suppliers of the company today their willingness to continue to provide services on a short-term basis while offers are invited for the business and assets. The aim of this process is to attempt to maximise the value of the assets on behalf of all of the company's creditors.”
In a further twist to this bizarre tale of commercial misjudgement and incompetence, The Times today reports that the platform’s owners, Carlton Communications and Granada Media, have withdrawn further day-to-day funding of ITVd in retaliation at the ITC’s refusal to allow them to re-bid for their offspring. It is understood that this decision was supported by the administrator’s senior manager, Nick Dargan.
The successful bidder will acquire all the assets of ITVd but none of its debts – including the crippling £178.5 million owed to the Football League.
Meantime, the publicly-owned British Broadcasting Corporation has moved to acquire from ITVd’s administrator the SI [service information] software that operates the platform’s onscreen channel identification. This is essential to ensure viewers continue to receive ITVd services if it is put into liquidation. The deal requires approval by the government’s department for culture, media and sport.
Says the BBC: “We are, as a matter of urgency, negotiating with the administrator, to ensure full access to all the BBC's free to view channels continues. The BBC believes there is still a future for the digital terrestrial platform and hope the ITC and the government will be able to resolve its long term future, in the public interest, as soon as possible.
“We will be broadcasting public information announcements on BBC1, BBC2, BBC Choice, BBC 4 and BBC News 24 to reassure digital terrestrial viewers that they will continue to receive our channels.”
Data sourced from: MediaGuardian.co.uk, The Times (London) and BrandRepublic; additional content by WARC staff