US media giant Viacom has acquired Channel 5 for £450 million from Richard Desmond.

Desmond bought the Channel 5 for £101 million in 2010, and has been looking to offload the free-to-air channel in recent months, with both BskyB and Discovery also involved in the auction.

The acquisition means that Viacom will become the first US media company to own a UK free-to-air broadcast channel, and it will expand their UK presence, which already includes MTV, Comedy Central, and Nickelodeon.

Paul Dunthorne, Chief Operating Officer of Channel 5, said:

Since Northern & Shell’s acquisition of Channel 5 in 2010, the financial and operating performance of the business has been transformed with improved audiences and content offering. The combination of Channel 5 with Viacom’s global resources, technology and expertise adds further to the momentum of the business and offers numerous exciting opportunities for the channel’s future.

In a statement, Viacom said:

The transaction brings Viacom one of British television’s biggest brands, and the only commercial public service broadcaster to consistently grow viewership share in recent years.

Channel 5’s diverse programming slate is viewed by more than 80% of the UK population each month, benefits from the programming grid prominence associated with its public service broadcaster status, and will complement Viacom’s popular pay TV networks, which connect with focused and valuable audiences.

Viacom President and CEO Philippe Dauman said:

The acquisition of Channel 5 accelerates Viacom’s strategy in the UK, one of the world’s most important and valuable media markets. Channel 5’s momentum is indisputable, with impactful programming, increasing popularity and a growing digital platform. Channel 5’s management and employees have done an outstanding job building their brand and we are pleased to welcome them to our team. Viacom’s global resources, technology and expertise will help Channel 5 develop even more compelling programming and provide content to consumers in exciting new ways. In addition, we will introduce our popular content to new UK audiences and create a comprehensive offering for our commercial partners on-air and on-line.

This deal will dramatically increase Viacom’s investment in content produced in the UK, which has a widely admired public service broadcasting culture and a globally influential production sector. We look forward to partnering with local producers to introduce more UK-created content to global audiences, and will continue to explore opportunities in the UK, both in the free-to-air and pay television markets.

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