Viacom Said Acquiring U.K.’s Channel 5 From Northern & Shell

May 01, 2014 4:08 am ET

(Updates with Discovery bid starting in fourth paragraph.)

May 1 (Bloomberg) -- Sumner Redstone’s Viacom Inc. has agreed to buy the U.K.’s Channel 5, according to a person with knowledge of the situation who asked not to be named because the deal hasn’t been announced.

Viacom, the owner of MTV and Comedy Channel, will pay as much as 450 million pounds ($759 million) for the broadcaster owned by Richard Desmond’s Northern & Shell, the Guardian newspaper reported yesterday. The purchase may be announced today, when New York-based Viacom reports quarterly results, the newspaper said.

Channel 5, which airs shows including “Britain’s Crime Capitals” and “Celebrity Big Brother,” would further Viacom’s international expansion with an English-speaking outlet for its U.S. television programming. Desmond initially sought more than 700 million pounds for the station. He also considered an initial public offering instead of selling, people familiar with the plan said have said. Desmond, who once owned the license to publish Penthouse in the U.K., bought Channel 5 from Bertelsmann AG’s RTL Group SA in 2010 for 103.5 million pounds.

A spokesman for Viacom declined to comment. A spokeswoman for Northern & Shell also declined to comment on the matter.

Discovery Communications Inc. and British Sky Broadcasting Group Plc had also jointly bid for Channel 5, though Discovery dropped out of the process last month, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.

Desmond is seeking to cash in on the growing demand for TV assets as more people watch on the Internet and mobile devices, and as operators including HBO, BSkyB and AMC ramp up investment in content and sign Hollywood actors to star in shows.

--With assistance from Anousha Sakoui in London and Alex Sherman in New York.