Joseph O'Halloran ©RapidTVNews | 15-08-2011

Nearly nine months after it put its stake in UKTV up for sale, Virgin Media has confirmed that Scripps Networks Interactive is to take control of the content firm in a deal valued at approximately £239 million.

Virgin confirmed the sale of its assets in UKTV, in which ownership is split 50/50 with BBC Worldwide in August 2010. At the time Virgin claimed that UKTV had a turnover of £200 million with 36.5 million viewers each month for programmes such as Watch, G.O.L.D., Dave, Alibi, Eden, Blighty, Yesterday, Home, Really and Good Food. UKTV channels also air shows from the BBC in addition to original programming. All of the UKTV channels are available on Sky Digital and Virgin Media. Dave and Yesterday also are available on Freeview.

As part of the deal, completion of which is contingent on regulatory approvals in the Republic of Ireland and Jersey, Scripps will not only own half of the equity interest in the UKTV partnership but will also pay about £100 million to acquire the outstanding preferred stock and debt owed by UKTV to Virgin Media.

In addition, Scripps and BBC Worldwide are currently involved in negotiating an agreement whereby, after completion, BBC Worldwide would have the option, via a combination of cash and a package of digital rights for UKTV, to increase its shareholding from 50% by an extra tenth share. The new owner’s existing voting rights and Board representation would be unaffected by this proposed arrangement, which would be subject to BBC Executive and BBC Trust approvals.

“UKTV is a significant opportunity for Scripps Networks Interactive to participate in a thriving multi-channel, dual revenue stream media business in one of the world’s largest television markets,” revealed Kenneth W. Lowe, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Scripps Networks Interactive. “Making a solid investment in UKTV and entering into a strong partnership with BBC Worldwide reinforces our core international strategy which we believe will create significant long-term value for our shareholders.”

John Smith, chief executive, BBC Worldwide, added: “The launch of UKTV in 1997 created a new secondary platform for content from the BBC and U.K. independents that has delivered great value back to all stakeholders. We thank Virgin Media for the part it has played in developing the business into one of the most successful pay TV companies in the U.K.”