Channels from British commercial network ITV will finally be broadcast by BSkyB, owner of the UK’s leading digital platform, according to a report in the Sunday Telegraph.

A deal allowing Sky Digital subscribers to receive channels ITV1 and ITV2 (but not, it is thought, ITV Sport) via their satellite dish will be announced as early as today (Monday), said the paper. Until now, Sky customers wishing to watch the free-to-air ITV1 have had to switch back to analogue broadcasts, eroding the network’s audience share among Sky’s subscriber base of 5.4 million.

ITV will pay BSkyB around £17m ($24m) for the privilege, says the paper. The network’s two main shareholders, Granada Media and Carlton Communications, could lose around £200m a year in ad revenues should a deal not be reached, since access to BSkyB’s platform would allow the continued sale of lucrative, regionally targeted ads, something not possible under ITV’s plans to operate a digital satellite service independently via the Astra satellite.

However, ITV played down the story, according to Monday’s edition of the Daily Telegraph, saying that although a deal was “imminent”, no contracts had been signed as of Sunday night.

News sources: BBC Online Business News (UK);; Telegraph website