Discovery Communications and BSkyB are poised to announce a £350m deal to acquire Channel 5 from Richard Desmond’s Northern & Shell.
Full details are not known, but Discovery is thought to have a 70% share of the deal with BSkyB taking the remaining 30% share, allowing it to add C5’s advertising inventory to its own sales operation.
The deal will mark a significant step for US media giant Discovery, which has been keen to ramp up both its international portfolio and its exposure to free-to-air broadcasting in key markets.
Richard Desmond bought C5 from RTL in 2010 for £104m. While he was reportedly hoping to attract bids of closer to £600m, he will be happy to have tripled his money in less than four years.
The acquisition would be the most significant deal in the UK free-to-air market since the launch of C5 in 1997.
The deal, which will still be subject to regulatory sign-off, will likely have a massive impact on the channel’s programming budget, with some sources suggesting that it will be more than doubled.