Viacom buys Britain's Channel 5 Broadcasting for $760 million

Viacom buys Britain's Channel 5 Broadcasting for $760 million
Viacom on Thursday announced a $760 million purchase of British broadcaster Channel 5. (Mark Lennihan / Associated Press)

Media company Viacom Inc. has significantly expanded its international footprint by buying television outlet Channel 5 Broadcasting in Britain.

Viacom, which owns cable channels MTV, Nickelodeon and Comedy Central, on Thursday said it has agreed to pay nearly $760 million to British press baron Richard Desmond for the over-the-air channel. 

Several other U.S. media companies had been interested in Channel 5, which launched in 1997 as Britain's fifth public broadcasting service.

The channel notches more than 42 million viewers a month. It airs such shows as "Big Brother," "The Gadget Show," "Ice Road Truckers," "Under the Dome" and the "CSI" franchise.

“The acquisition of Channel 5 accelerates Viacom’s strategy in the U.K., one of the world’s most important and valuable media markets,” Viacom Chief Executive Philippe Dauman said in a statement announcing the move.

"We believe we will be able to invest in even more programming for Channel 5," Dauman told analysts Thursday morning on a conference call to discuss Viacom earnings. He said Viacom would pay cash for the channel.

The deal is subject to regulatory approvals.

Channel 5 Broadcasting, currently held by Northern & Shell Media Group, also includes a children's programming service called Milkshake! The service, which airs a morning block of programming with such characters as Peppa Pig, should benefit from Viacom's stable of Nickelodeon characters.

Viacom, which is controlled by mogul Sumner Redstone, entered the British market in 1987 with the launch of its MTV channel there.

Desmond's Northern & Shell bought the channel about four years ago for 103 million pounds (roughly $150 million). Northern & Shell is selling the channel for more than four times that amount.

"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," Paul Dunthorne, chief operating officer of Channel 5, said in a statement announcing the channel's sale.