Britain's largest commercial broadcaster ITV is eyeing UKTV, a portfolio of digital television channels jointly owned by the BBC and Flextech, a unit of US-owned Telewest.

In all UKTV boasts nine channels, among them UKTV Gold, UKTV Drama and UKTV History.

ITV is eager to boost its digital offering, conscious that the dTV sector is one of the prime reasons for its shrinking audience share, down year-on-year in 2004 by 6% [WAMN: 30-Nov-04].

Currently airing one analogue and three digital channels, the broadcaster is currently planning a fourth, ITV4, which will primarily comprise gameshows.

No formal offer has yet been made for UKTV, although such a deal would likely suit the sellers as much as ITV. Under a Royal Charter renewal deal struck late last year between the BBC and its owner - the UK government - the former will divest itself of much of its commercial portfolio.

Telewest, too, is eager to swap non-core assets for cash, prior to its expected merger with US compatriot NTL. Both companies have recently surfaced from massive debt restructuring.

Such a deal could be a win/win outcome for all parties - except advertisers and agencies, both of which are hyperallergic to any move that would increase ITV's media sales hegemony.

Data sourced from BrandRepublic (UK); additional content by WARC staff