ITV1, flagship channel of Britain’s commercial television network ITV, finally took up residence on Sky Digital, the UK’s leading digital platform, on Wednesday night.

ITV has been locked in negotiations with BSkyB, owner of the satellite service and 36.3%-owned by NewsCorp, for months, but the duo have finally reached an agreement.

The sixteen regional versions of ITV1 are now available on Sky, with ITV2 following in a few days. ITV will pay BSkyB £17 million a year for the privilege, but will recoup £4m, which BSkyB will pay for carrying ITV2, whose distribution will leap 150% as a result.

Talks are continuing over the ITV Sport channel, though an agreement to put this on Sky is not thought to be imminent.

Said ITV chief executive Stuart Prebble: “This is good news for satellite viewers, who will be able to watch ITV1 and ITV2 through the Sky Digital electronic programming guide. They will get digital quality pictures and full programme information.”

He added that the deal was “good for ITV, which benefits from the ‘digital dividend’ which we receive for encouraging digital viewing. Over time, ITV will also benefit from the revenue generated by interactive programming and advertising.”

The deal may also prop up ITV1’s falling audience share among Sky subscribers, who until now have had to undergo the apparently arduous process of switching back to analogue signals to watch it. ITV initially kept the channel from Sky to encourage sales of its own terrestrial digital platform, the ailing ITV Digital.

News sources: The Times (London);