BBC Won't Sell Youth Network Despite $150 Million Bid

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Two production houses made a joint bid for BBC Three, which is due to be made online-only later this year.

The BBC has said it will not accept a a takeover bid from two independent British TV production houses for the public broadcaster’s 11-year-old youth-oriented network BBC Three, which it plans to move online.

Following media reports, U.K. producers Avalon and Hat Trick announced on Tuesday that they had approached the BBC Trust, the BBC’s independent governing body, with a bid to buy the channel, which is facing a move from linear to online-only distribution in October this year after budget cuts were revealed in early 2014.

A source told the The Hollywood Reporter that the value of the bid was in the region of $152 million. A deal would have meant the first-ever sell-off of a BBC channel.

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But the BBC press office tweeted that the channel was not for sale, saying: "BBC Three not for sale because it’s not closing – proposal to move it online is part of bold move to reinvent BBC’s offer for young people."

Both Avalon and Hat Trick on Tuesday said they would keep the linear channel on-air should the bid prove successful, and additionally raise its budget, which is due to be slashed as part of the BBC’s proposals.

"Under the new ownership, BBC Three would continue to broadcast on all digital platforms, all current contracts would be honored and the channel’s program budget would be increased from £81 million ($123 million) to £100m ($152 million) a year,” the statement from Avalon and Hat Trick read, adding that under the BBC’s proposals the budget would be cut to $45 million.

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"All original commissions would be made by the U.K. companies and the channel would continue to be aimed at a young and ethnically diverse audience," the statement also said.

Informal approaches were made to senior BBC figures regarding the channel in the last few months before the bid went to the BBC Trust, which on Tuesday also launched its public value test regarding the closure of BBC Three as a linear channel. The four-week public consultation will see both the Trust and the U.K. broadcasting regulator Ofcom solicit views of audiences and the industry regarding the planned changes.