Desmond eyes rivals' shows as he gets Five for £103m

Richard Desmond wants to snatch some of Britain’s best-loved television programmes from his rivals after becoming the owner of Channel Five.

The newspaper and magazine proprietor said Coronation Street, X Factor and Panorama would all be good on the channel he had just acquired.

The Express Newspaper’s owner is also considering reviving Big Brother, which is in its last series on Channel 4, on his newly acquired channel.

The owner of the Daily Express, Daily Star and OK! magazine, who is said to be worth £950 million, paid £103.5 million to European entertainment network RTL for its 100 per cent shareholding.

RTL said the deal with Desmond’s Northern & Shell company had been closed with immediate effect.

Desmond told Sky News that Five was a great channel and he advised all viewers to switch to it to watch the best programming.

“In addition to that, what we will be doing is investing in more programmes, and more features, just basically more, to give the British viewer what they need,’he said.

He said he thought Big Brother was on the channel’s shopping list, along with Coronation Street.

He added: “Also I think X Factor would be very good on Channel Five, and maybe Panorama would be good on Channel Five.”

Asked if he was asking the BBC to make programmes for his network, he said: “Well, why not, why not? Why can’t we have Panorama on Channel Five? Jolly good programme.”

And when it was suggested he could make his own version, he said only: “I rather like Panorama.”

Asked if some deal had already done by which the owners and creative forces of Coronation Street would switch it away from ITV, he said: “Well, you asked me what I would like to see on Channel Five, and those are the sort of programmes I would like to see.

“You must appreciate I have only owned the channel for, I think, an hour, so we haven’t actually got into detailed negotiations, although I am a hard worker.”

Asked if the channel was now called Channel Five again, and was no longer Five, he said: “I prefer Channel Five to Five, but… we haven’t met with the team yet to discuss these sorts of details.”

Britain’s fifth terrestrial channel first launched in 1997, offering a provocative blend of films, soccer matches and naughty, near-the-knuckle shows as it tried to carve out its own unique position in the market.

RTL became sole owner five years ago but the channel managed only five per cent of audience share in the UK last year.

It is now the home for popular shows such as Neighbours, The Mentalist and CSI, with Justin Lee Collins, who was poached from Channel 4, among its raft of presenters.

Dawn Airey, Five’s chair and chief executive, said: “Northern & Shell are an international media business with a prominent position in the UK.

“We now move forward under the ownership of a successful media company that wants to grow our business and has exciting plans for the development of Five.

“We very much look forward to working with them.”

Gerhard Zeiler, chief executive officer of RTL Group, said: “With a significant recovery of the UK TV advertising market and Five performing well in the first half of 2010, we saw a window of opportunity to realise a transaction based on a fair evaluation of Five.

“The disposal is in line with RTL Group’s strategy of being number one or two in each of our markets.

“I would like to thank the whole team at Five and CEO and chair Dawn Airey for their passion and professionalism, especially in the difficult past 20 months which saw a comprehensive restructuring of the company.”

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