Buyers line-up for VMtv

By Julian Clover

Channel 4, Time Warner and BSkyB have reportedly made it through to the next round of bidding for the VMtv channels.

Virgin Media is selling its content interests that include the channel brands Bravo, Living and Challenge. City sources quoted by The Times said the offers were in the region of £80 million, but sources closer to the sale indicated the bids were higher, and that the company was “confident” of achieving a good price.

Liberty Global, whose Chellozone division might have expected to have been a contender, is understood to no longer be in the race.

Virgin has split the sale of VMtv from its other principal television interest UKTV, where partner BBC Worldwide has a first right of refusal. VMtv is valued at around £350 million in Virgin’s accounts and any sale is likely to be short of the £800 million suggested during the failed sale of the division in 2006.

The possibility remains that BBC Worldwide might exercise its option to purchase the UKTV channels before they are folded into a holding with Channel 4 as part of proposals put forward in Lord Carter’s Digital Britain Report.

Virgin Media also holds a 50% stake in Setanta Sports News.