The auction of Britain’s Channel 5 has come to an end. Viacom and Northern & Shell Media Group have agreed to a deal that will see Viacom International Media Networks pay £450M ($757M) for the broadcaster. Northern & Shell boss Richard Desmond acquired the free-to-air network in 2010 for £103.5M and was believed to be seeking a buyer willing to pay about £700M. As late as last month, Discovery and BSkyB were said to be teaming up to jointly bid about £350M for Channel 5, but the parties ultimately decided not to go forward. Viacom’s acquisition of Channel 5, which averages about a 4% share, will make it the first U.S. group to own a British public service broadcaster. The network is home to Big Brother and airs such U.S. dramas as Under The Dome, CSI and Person Of Interest. Channel 5 does not have much in-house product, but Viacom today said the deal would “dramatically increase” its investment in UK-produced content, which is good news for producers in the increasingly hot UK TV sector. Viacom’s international reach through its pay-TV businesses will also be seen as a lucrative window for UK producers. “We look forward to partnering with local producers to introduce more UK-created content to global audiences, and will continue to explore opportunities in the UK, both in the free-to-air and pay television markets,” Viacom President and CEO Philippe Dauman, said. VIMN is no stranger to the UK where it has more than 20 branded cable networks including MTV, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, BET, VIVA and VH1. The Channel 5 group includes the flagship Channel 5; youth-skewed 5*; American programming showcase 5USA; the Milkshake! kids brand; and VOD service Demand 5. The transaction is subject to regulatory approvals.
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