Viacom, which owns channels including Nickelodeon and Comedy Central, is expected to announce the deal on Thursday when it reports its latest financial results. The price tag falls short of the £700m-plus target originally set by Mr Desmond, the owner of the Daily Express and Daily Star newspapers.
It represents a significant profit on the £103.5m Mr Desmond paid to buy the then loss-making Channel 5 from the German broadcaster RTL in 2010. Desmond turned the business round by slashing costs and bringing Big Brother over from Channel 4, while boosting his other investments by broadcasting regular adverts for his press titles. It is not clear what Viacom will do with Channel 5’s £350m-a-year TV ad sales business. But it is thought likely that it will involve Rupert Murdoch’s Sky. BSkyB handles the TV ad sales in the UK for Viacom – the US broadcaster is Sky Media’s biggest customer – and it is most likely to incorporate Channel 5’s sales into its existing deal.
The deal would allow Viacom to make a move into free-to-air television in the UK. Viacom has invested heavily in entertainment, reality and children’s television, which fits into Channel 5’s current schedules. In addition, along with Channel 5, Viacom invested in Peppa Pig via Nick Jr, which airs on Channel 5’s children’s slot and on the Nick Jr channel. The broadcaster’s children’s strand Milkshake features shows including Peppa Pig, Fireman Sam and Thomas & Friends.
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