The Mirror Group consortium has pulled out of the running for Channel 5 leaving only four consortia with just six days before the deadline for bids.
In a brief statement yesterday (Tuesday), Mirror Group confirmed: “The consortium has decided for a variety of reasons not to go forward with the bid for Channel 5.”
No further clarification was given and neither Mirror Group chief executive David Montgomery nor Mirror Television head Kelvin Mackenzie were available for comment as Marketing Week went to press.
Mirror Group had been considering a bid along with US broadcaster NBC and UK television producer SelecTV. Patrick Cox, NBC Super Channel chairman, refused to comment.
There has been growing speculation that Mirror Group would not enter the bidding after Montgomery commented at the publication of the company’s results last Thursday that “it was too early to say”.
Panmure Gordan analyst Lorna Tilbian says the announcement was “not unexpected”.
Attention is now focused on whether NBC and SelecTV will team up with any remaining consortia. This is thought unlikely although possible. NBC is believed to have gone off the idea. SelecTV is already plan-ning to launch its own general entertainment-based cable TV channel.
Four Channel 5 consortia remain in the running:
* BSkyB, Granada, TCI, Polygram, Kinnevik and Goldman Sachs
*Pearson and MAI, which owns two ITV franchises – Anglia and Meridian Broadcasting.
* Virgin Group, HTV, Associated Newspapers, Philips, Electra and Paramount Television.
* CanWest, the Canadian international broadcaster which last week declared its intention to bid.
However, a row is now brewing over Rupert Murdoch’s involvement.
Labour National Heritage spokesman Chris Smith this week attacked Government plans to go ahead with the auction under “existing rules” when the Government plans to publish a white paper on new cross-media ownership rules next month.
Under the existing rules, BSkyB, which is 40 per cent owned by Murdoch, can bid for Channel 5 and hold up to 20 per cent in the licence.