Industry reports suggest that BBC Worldwide has opened talks about the borrowing hundreds of millions of pounds to control the remaining 50% stake in the broadcaster which it doesn’t currently control.
A window of opportunity has opened up for the BBC to make its move after its joint-venture partner Scripps found itself subject to a $14.6bn takeover by Discovery – activating a change of control clause which will enable the BBC to buy off Discovery when the Scripps deal concludes in the New Year.
This will force Discovery to sell-up if the BBC can pay full market value for its share.
With big ambitions and low cash reserves BBC Worldwide is looking to fund the takeover by way of additional borrowing but the deal is likely to prove a long-term winner for the public service broadcaster which received £72m from UKTV last year via a dividend and repeat fees.
UKTV began life as a dedicated pay TV channel for BBC repeats but has since diversified into free-to-air broadcasting and is even commissioning its own programming, including new episodes of popular sci-fi comedy Red Dwarf.
Any takeover would mark a dramatic turnaround since last year when it was feared the BBC would be forced to sell its existing £500m stake.