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C5: another bit of UK TV industry snapped up by global investors

02 May 2014

Viacom’s £450m takeover of Channel 5 this week has been greeted by the production community as a positive move, likely to lead to an upturn in spend on new content at the broadcaster.

This expected increased in investment in the British creative industries should, of course, be welcomed.

Viacom, which owns MTV, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central and film studio Paramount Pictures, said the deal would allow the company to tap new ideas from the UK’s highly regarded production sector to play on its channels around the world.

The deal, however, marks the latest in a long line of acquisitions in the UK broadcasting and production sector by international investors.

It is the first time that a US company will control a public service broadcaster in the competitive UK market.

Yet, in the same week that US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer’s attempted takeover of the UK’s AstraZeneca has raised a slew of political concerns, Viacom’s acquisition of Britain’s fifth biggest channel has barely raised an eyebrow amongst commentators.

Indeed, it’s largely led to speculation that ITV might now be the next takeover target for US players such as CBS or Comcast.

Very few of the leading TV production companies are actually British owned, as Televisual reported in its Production 100 survey. The majority – from the producers of Downton Abbey through to the makers of Who Do You Think You Are? - are owned by the likes of Sony, NBC, Warner Bros, 20th Century Fox, RTL and De Agostini which all have major stakes in UK indies.

Furthermore, the UK’s biggest independent production group, All3Media, is now said to be in takeover talks with Discovery, which has hugely expanded its presence in the UK market in recent years. Digital firms such as Netlfix and Amazon are growing their presence significantly in the OTT sector. 21st Century Fox has a controlling stake in the country’s biggest pay-TV operator, BSkyB. Scripps, meanwhile, owns half of UKTV along with BBC Worldwide.

It leaves British run outfits such as the BBC, C4, ITV and BT looking like a rather dwindling part of the UK television landscape.

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Danielle Sevenoaks - Media Student
Danielle Sevenoaks - Media Student  | September 12, 2014
Viacom buys channel 5
Viacom’s £450 million takeover has seems to have been for a slight improvement and then a struggle but hitting a bump in the road perhaps this will allow Viacom to make some noticeable changes to channel 5.
The outdated system repeating of soap operas of the past and big brother there is no doubt in my mind that channel 5 needs an urgent reboot and new ideas. It is obvious Viacom have the ability becoming the fifth largest broadcasting and Cable Company, in terms of revenue, in the world with shares in the Walt Disney Company and 21st century fox, but why haven’t there been any changes since Viacom bought channel 5 in May, bigger production values, in my opinion are not needed, new ideas are.
I have noticed channel 5 are offering a somewhat restricted range of programming from soap operas to documentaries to game shows and that’s about that. The only original programmes I’ve noticed are documentaries and they seem to only be catering for a specific audience, where are the broad options for the audience? Where are the family shows? The shows for teens? The original dramas?
Does Viacom buying channel 5 mean the beginning of an American takeover of British Television? I would personally love to see more American options on my television however I’m not their soap operas, something which channel 5 seem to gravitate towards.
There are more questions to be raised; what does this mean for independent British companies? What are the plans for one of Britain’s most recognised channels? Will we be seeing an American takeover of channel 5 programmes? And possibly the biggest question why have the profits fallen after just 4 months?
Erin McGill, Media Student
Erin McGill, Media Student  | September 12, 2014
Viacom took over Channel 5 in May of this year but I haven’t seen any change. Where did their money actually go? I would have thought that they would have though Channel 5 would start produce their own programmes instead of showing American shows. But obviously they spent the money elsewhere. But where exactly?
Nothing on Channel 5 has changed there is still the same old shows such as, ‘’Big Brother’’ and the Australian soaps ‘’Home and Away’’ and ‘’Neighbours’’. We still get the American produced shows, it is nice to have them, but other Public Broadcasters produce their own shows for example BBC have ‘’Doctor Who’’ and ITV have ‘’Downton Abby’’ these are British Shows that are done very well and get lots of viewers and have made it popular in the states. Why couldn’t Viacom do this with Channel 5? Should it not have led to an ‘’upturn in spend on new content at the broadcaster.’’ They were supposed to put lots of money into the production. Also they seem to have lost shareholders (if you read Bloomberg ( it shows that in three months, from may though to July of 2014 it shows they have lost money and this is proof that the takeover has not lead to an ‘’upturn in spend’’.
Clare Meaney media student
Clare Meaney media student  | September 12, 2014
One of the possibilities that channel 5 dramatically lost money after the takeover form may and by July the company had already lost 9% of audience viewers. So what’s the reason for this? Has there been a sudden change in audience’s choices or choice given by the conglomerate? Well let’s take ‘Big Brother’ for example, it is a long running series that is always aired on channel 5, however where the series keeps getting repeated and housemates aren’t as appealing to audiences anymore, that just one how that the company is losing viewing numbers.
Karl Dean - Media Student
Karl Dean - Media Student  | September 12, 2014
With Channel 5’s take on of ‘Big Brother’ away from Channel 4 (The suitable candidate for Big Brother). I feel like the giant reality show has taken over; with all of Channel 5’s characteristics being shadowed and put on the side-line. From my childhood memories of the ‘old Channel 5’ I’d always love to see what films channel 5 would be playing, instead now I see ‘Neighbours’ and ‘home and away’ on repeat. Perhaps with the Viacom takeover, the extra money could be spent on some innovative ideas for new shows. Rather than putting more emphasis onto old existing American and Australian shows.
Tim Dams
Tim Dams  | September 12, 2014
Hi Justin,

There's a slight delay in approving comments, as they are all read by the editorial team here to make sure they abide by our comment standards. Thanks.
Justin Malewezi - Media Teacher
Justin Malewezi - Media Teacher  | September 12, 2014
My media students will be responding to this post this morning. This is just to test to see if posting is instant.

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