UPDATE: OFT to investigate BSkyB deal for Virgin TV channels

Virgin TV

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) is to look at whether BSkyB's proposed £160m acqusition of Virgin Media's TV business (see below) is likely to raise any regulatory issues in the UK.

According to MediaGuardian, the OFT will consider whether the deal could constitute a merger under the 2002 Enterprise Act.

It has today invited interested parties to comment on the deal, which is seen by some as a consolidation of competition in the pay-TV market.

If the OFT decides there's a substantial lessening of competition, it would refer the case to the Competition Commission for further investigation.

Earlier today Virgin announced it would offer customers Sky's premium sports and movie channels in HD from August.

Published 04.06.10

BskyB has agreed to buy Virgin Media Television for a fee of up to £160 million. The deal will also see Virgin given access to previously exclusive SD and HD Sky channels.

The new agreements will see Sky's basic channel line-up, including Sky1 and Sky Arts, and the newly acquired VMtv channels, continue on Virgin Media's cable TV service.

Virgin Media will in turn for the first time have the option of carrying any of Sky's basic HD channels, Sky Sports HD 1 and Sky Sports HD 2, and all Sky Movies HD channels

Virgin will use its on-demand TV service to offer content from Sky's basic and premium channels, and can also shows red button interactive sports coverage and other SD programming over the internet.

The newly-acquired VMtv channels include LIVING, LIVINGit, Challenge, Challenge Jackpot, Bravo, Bravo 2 and Virgin1.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Sky will not license the Virgin brand and will announce a new channel brand for Virgin1.

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Published 01.06.10

Speculation is mounting that former arch-rivals Virgin Media and BSkyB are close to a "sweatheart deal", acccording to MediaGuardian.

It was only a few years ago that James Murdoch, then chief executive of BSkyB, blocked Virgin's takeover of ITV by buying a 17.9% stake. Later, BSkyB stopped supplying Sky1 and Sky News to Virgin.

Now the two companies seem to be on the verge of much closer co-operation. BSkyB is now run by its former finance director, Jeremy Darroch, and Neil Berkett is the pragmatic chief executive of Virgin Media.

If the proposed deal goes ahead, BSkyB will take control of Virgin 1's valuable Freeview slot, giving it a useful toe-hold on the free-to-air platform. Virgin's niche entertainment channels will complement Sky's sports, films and news channels.

A recent Ofcom ruling, forcing BSkyB to cut its wholesale prices to rival broadcasters for Sky Sports 1 and 2, will also form part of the new deal between the two companies.

Virgin is expected to get a long-term deal for the premium content it needs from Sky to drive its cable TV business forward.

Published 28.05.10

BSkyB is said to be on the verge of buying Virgin Media's TV channel business, according to MediaGuardian.

The channels, which include Virgin 1, Living, Bravo and Challenge, are expected to sell for around £150-£160m.

BSkyB is understood to be nearing the end of lengthy negotiations, with a deal expected to be finalised next week.

In a further consolidation of the commercial TV sector, Channel Five is also being prepared for sale by owner RTL.

Gerhard Zeller, RTL chief executive, and Dawn Airey, chairman and chief executive of Five, are understood to have spent recent months talking to a wide range of potential buyers for loss-making Five.

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