The news has done the rounds already (I’ve had a busy few days), but I thought I’d comment on Sky’s Â£1bn ITV share-swoop.
Just like Ryanair’s bid for Aer Lingus, most people seem to have been taken by surprise by the bid, however in hindsight it’s something people really should have expected. With all the talk of an ITV/NTL UK merger, and the media giant that would create, it seems silly to think that BSkyB would have sat back and allowed a serious contender to emerge without doing something to thwart it’s progress.
Unlike the Ryanair/Aer Lingus bid, however, BSkyB has said it doesn’t plan on launching takeover proceedings (possibly because such an acquisition would almost certainly be blocked by competition authorities anyway). That said in both instances the aggressors will benefit from being a very vocal shareholder with a large minority interest (which seems to be the intention of BSkyB but simply an acceptable Plan B for Michael O’Leary).
So will this ruin NTL’s (or should I say Virgin Media’s) aspirations to become a multi-platform player on the same level as BSkyB? Well no, but it does mean that there are 17.9% fewer free-flowing shares on the market for them to snap up, which means that 1) their price offering may need to rise somewhat and 2) they may now have to push certain shareholders harder whom have no intention of selling up.
For us humble viewers, however, it just makes the whole thing far more interesting. With Sky trying to get into ITV to make the network as unappealing as possible and rival bids coming in thick and fast for the station, it’s future is far from certain; although there has been little certain about the channels in recent months anyway.
Of course media consolidation can generally be seen as a negative thing; it’s not an ideal situation to have one owner for both the broadcasting platform and the broadcaster, anyway. That said it isn’t entirely unappealing to have two media giants in the same market in Britain; it’s arguably better than just one (although the cure can rarely be found in the cause).
But what does this mean for Ireland? Well awfully little, I imagine. NTL as we know it has next-to-nothing in common with it’s UK namesake (with the one remaining similarity, the name, about to change on both sides soon). UTV, which is the “third channel” broadcaster for Northern Ireland is also completely independent from ITV plc, as is TV3 since it’s recent sale to Doughty Hanson. BSkyB is, in fact, the only player in this whole saga that has any involvement in the Irish market and even at that it’s current posturing is very unlikely to mean anything at all to customers here.
But as they say, it’s still all to play for and the British media landscape seems to be facing some major changes in the next year.