ITV confirms talks to partner BT Sport, but not a takeover

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ITV PLC (LSE:ITV) chief executive Carolyn McCall has confirmed the company is in talks with BT Group PLC (LSE:BT.A) over its sports unit.


McCall said that discussions concern ITV taking a stake in the BT Sport business, not a takeover.


BT Group has been considering its options for the unit and in April hired investment bank Lazard as it began talks with potential buyers and/or partners.


Media reports at the time initially linked streaming app DAZN to talks, along with Amazon and ESPN-owner Disney. Shortly thereafter ITV and also Sky were also said to be at the negotiating table, though the latter subsequently ended talks.


McCall in interviews after ITV’s trading update said ITV had a good relationship with BT and talks about collaboration and cooperation were ongoing whilst cooling suggestions in the direction of M&A.


The ITV boss meanwhile had no comments on rumours around the broadcaster’s potential interest in Channel 4.


Earlier, in Wednesday’s trading update, ITV said it plans to propose a final dividend for the full year as it is “encouraged” by the advertising outlook after a record June.


The broadcaster is skipping the interim dividend and instead eyeing a 3.3p final distribution “based on two-thirds of a notional full-year dividend of 5p”, assuming the economy continues to recover.


Last month delivered the largest advertising revenues for the month of June in the history of ITV, driven by the easing of restrictions and the Euros football tournament.


Total advertising revenue for June and July 2021 is expected to be 16% higher than the same period in 2018 when ITV broadcast the football World Cup and series 4 of Love Island.


Further money is being poured into ITV Studios, which is currently performing “strongly”, driven by demand for content, although there are still challenges in delivering programmes under Coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions, particularly multi-location shoots.

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