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23/04/2002

ITV Digital's administrators discuss sale with ITC

Administrators have confirmed that talks on the sale of ITV Digital's licence to broadcast are ongoing with industry regulators the ITC.
With ITV Digital in the hands of administrators, accountancy firm Deloitte & Touche, the future for the firm looks bleak.
The administrators announced on Monday that it had not been possible to restructure ITV Digital's costs and the company would be put up for sale. The likely options are a break up of the company and a sale of the assets, which would leave the English Football League as just one of a list of potential creditors.
The sale of pay-tv company ITV Digital has left UK soccer clubs high and dry. As top football club chiefs rounded on Carlton and Granada, the joint owners of ITV Digital, for their handling of the situation, Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell said that the bubble had clearly burst on the sports television industry in Europe and the government would not be assisting the football clubs.
ITV Digital had been struggling to raise the £178 million owed to the English Football League clubs under the three-year deal struck for broadcast rights to football coverage.
League officials representing the interests of the 72 clubs affected claim that as a result of the failure to reach agreement up to 30 clubs may be in danger of financial collapse.
Chief Executive of the Football League, David Burns, speaking to BBC Radio 4 on Tuesday April 23 said he was prepared to talk about a compromise deal with Carlton and Granada, or any potential buyer. However, he maintained: "Carlton and Granada can afford to pay their debts. They are simply refusing to do so."
He claimed that Carlton and Granada were poised to profit from the closure of the pay-TV element of ITV Digital as the companies stood to gain £2 billion from the 'digital dividend'.
Television presenter Ulrika Jonsson launched the digital television company, originally marketed as On Digital with much razzmatazz in 1998. But the performance of the company has been highly suspect with set-top box supply problems, a major rebranding in April 2000, a slipping subscriber base and a high customer churn figure.
Recently a general fall off in television advertising since mid-2001 and a reducing subscriber base have precipitated a crisis at ITV Digital.
(SP)
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