ITV Rules Out Acquisition Of BT Sport As Channel 4 Sale Looms

ITV has ruled out the prospect of buying BT Sport in a sign that the commercial broadcaster is not overly enthusiastic about major acquisitions ahead of the UK government potentially putting Channel 4 up for sale.

Following the publication of ITV’s half-year earnings on Wednesday, CEO Carolyn McCall put an end to speculation that it is circling BT Sport, the Premier League broadcaster that was made available to buyers in April.

“We’ve been very focused on our balance sheet, we’re really very robust. We still see uncertainty ahead [amid the pandemic], it’s not the kind of acquisition we would do,” McCall told journalists on a media call.

An ITV spokeswoman would not comment on whether McCall’s remarks mean it is not interested in a target of Channel 4’s ilk. The chief executive told press she would not “speculate” on the future of Channel 4, but ITV has been touted as a potential buyer for the broadcaster, which is owned by the UK government.

Ministers are conducting a 10-week consultation on the future of Channel 4 and culture secretary Oliver Dowden has said that privatizing the network will be “better for the broadcaster and better for the country.”

“I’m clearly not going to speculate on anything to do with Channel 4,” McCall said, adding that she would not comment on any conversations ITV has had with the government about the prospect of acquiring its rival. She added, however, that ITV will make a submission to the consultation.

In another sign that ITV is not overly acquisitive at this time, McCall explained a shift in strategy at ITV Studios. The studio hoovered up production companies under McCall’s predecessor Adam Crozier, acquiring the likes of The Voice producer Talpa Media. Now, it favors partnerships with fledgling producers.

“We started to back talent instead of constantly acquiring companies. And we’ve actually found that is a really effective strategy,” the CEO said.

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