The RTL Group a leading European media empire has finally sold off struggling UK network ‘Five’ to Richard Desmond, who believes if reports are true, the success of Five may rest with reviving Top of the Pops.
The RTL Group a leading European media empire has finally sold off struggling UK network ‘Five’. The company have signed an agreement for the sale of the Five group to the Northern & Shell company owned by British publisher Richard Desmond.
“The deal is closed with immediate effect. The total cash consideration payable to RTL Group for its 100 per cent shareholding in Five will be £103.5 million” The RTL Group say.
In April 1996, a consortium owned by CLT-UFA, Pearson Television, Warburg Pincus and United Business Media were granted a licence for the UK’s fifth terrestrial television station named Channel 5 by the Independent Television Commission. One year later, on 30 March 1997, Channel 5 went on air with an exclusive song recorded by the Spice Girls, followed by This is Five! and the first episode of the soap opera Family Affairs.
In February 2000, Warburg Pincus sold its 19 per cent stake to the other shareholders. A few months later Pearson and CLT-UFA merged to form RTL Group. Following the transaction, the new company owned 65 per cent of the broadcaster before finally taking over the entire company in 2005 when purchasing the remaining shares from UBM.
In October 2006 two spin-off ‘Five’ channels were added to satellite and cable services.
“Just when RTL Group finally gained full control of Five and started to further expand the scale of its broadcaster, the UK market became progressively more difficult for all major broadcasters. Between 2005 and 2009 UK TV advertising declined by 19 per cent. At the same time, all of the UK’s main terrestrial channels lost audience share, largely due to fragmentation from the increasing penetration of multi-channel digital TV.” The company say.
These problems lead to the RTL management deciding to sell off the Five network and put the company up for sale in late 2009.
Gerhard Zeiler, Chief Executive Officer of RTL Group, said: “With a significant recovery of the UK TV advertising market and Five performing well in the first half of 2010, we saw a window of opportunity to realise a transaction based on a fair evaluation of Five. The disposal is in line with RTL Group’s strategy of being number one or two in each of our markets. I would like to thank the whole team at Five and CEO & Chair Dawn Airey for their passion and professionalism, especially in the difficult past 20 months which saw a comprehensive restructuring of the company.”
He also added “The disposal is in line with RTL Group’s strategy of being number one or two in each of our markets. Given the market environment in the UK it has become clear that a standalone Five would ultimately prove sub-scale for our strategic goals. However, selling our UK broadcaster Five was not an easy decision as we’ve built the brand out from in 1997. I would like to thank the whole team at Five and CEO & Chair Dawn Airey for their passion and professionalism, especially in the difficult past twenty months which saw a comprehensive restructuring of the company.”
In July 2000, Five poached the popular series Home & Away from ITV. It went on to become one of Five’s most popular serial dramas (when it finally went to air on Five a year later in 2001). Additionally, Five became home of many popular US series such as House, NCIS, Shark, Law & Order as well as the CSI franchises. In February 2008, Five started airing the Australian drama Neighbours which was previously aired on BBC – a real coup for the small channel. As a result, Five’s daily reach increased by almost two million viewers and the series achieved an average audience share (16+) of 12.2 per cent in its first year on Five.
Reports today suggest new owner Richard Desmond wants to help revive Five’s fortunes by bringing back popular music showcase Top Of The Pops which aired on the BBC from 1964 to 2006, and continues to air annually at Christmas.
Fans of Top Of The Pops have been unhappy with the BBC for ditching the music show, especially as ITV and Five’s own chart shows have also been axed in recent years. It’s unlikely the BBC would entertain the idea of Top Of The Pops re-launching on Five, they have already declined an offer from music mogul Simon Cowell to revive the series on ITV.