BSkyB Said to Join Discovery in Offer for Channel 5

Richard Desmond’s Northern & Shell said it received several bids for the U.K.’s Channel 5 television station which airs shows including “Britain’s Crime Capitals” and “Celebrity Big Brother.”

British Sky Broadcasting Group Plc and Discovery Communications Inc. have made a joint offer for the channel, while Viacom Inc. has also taken part in the sale process, according to people familiar with the talks, who asked not to be identified because the discussions are confidential. Desmond’s company will evaluate the bids with advisers in the coming days, Northern & Shell spokeswoman Mimi Turner said yesterday.

Desmond is seeking to cash in on the growing demand for TV assets as more people watch TV over the Internet and mobile devices and operators including HBO, BSkyB and AMC ramp up investment in content and sign Hollywood actors to star in shows. Desmond, who once owned the license to publish Penthouse in the U.K., bought Channel 5 from Bertelsmann AG’s RTL Group SA in 2010 for 103.5 million pounds.

Desmond, who initially sought more than 700 million pounds for the station, has also considered an initial public offering for the channel instead of selling, people familiar with the plan said this month.

BSkyB and Discovery are close to buying Channel 5 for 350 million pounds ($585 million), according to Broadcast magazine.

Representatives at BSkyB, Discovery and Viacom declined to comment.

Channel 5 reaches about half of the U.K. audience each week, according to data from the Broadcasters Audience Research Board. Northern & Shell also owns the Daily Star and Express newspapers and the U.K. edition of OK! magazine as well as pay-per-view broadcaster and producer Portland TV.

BSkyB shares rose 7 pence to 877 pence at 10:35 a.m. in London. Viacom yesterday dropped 0.6 percent to $82.24 in New York.

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