BSkyB to shut down Bravo, Virgin One

Plans instead to revamp female-skewed LivingTV

LONDON -- Will naked breasts, sweaty Roman orgies and gory gladiatorial combat ever make it onto British screens again now that BSkyB is shutting down recently acquired pay-TV channels Bravo and Virgin One?

The channels -- home to such epics as "Spartacus Blood & Sand" and "Dog the Bounty Hunter" -- are to close as part of Sky's plans to consolidate the Virgin Media TV group it acquired for £160 million ($250 million) in July.

Sky plans instead to revamp the jewel in Virgin's crown, female-skewed LivingTV -- which airs "Grey's Anatomy" and "America's Next Top Model."

Sky's head of entertainment, news and movies, Sophie Turner-Laing, said Sky would boost its program budget by 25% and make it Sky's pre-eminent female-skewed channel.

Virgin Media's Gameshow channel Challenge will also be maintained.

"There is so much potential for further development and we intend to increase onscreen investment in Living by around a quarter as part of our expanded channel portfolio," Turner-Laing said.

Sky sources said it may be too soon to bid farewell to such shows as the John Hannah-starrer "Spartacus," as they may yet re-appear on existing Sky channels.

Sky now plans to sift through the program licensing deals that Channel One and Bravo have in place, and will consider moving the most suitable shows to Sky One, Living or perhaps even a slot on free-to-air digital Freeview.

Turner Laing said the move would see a give Sky a chance to boost its channel line-up with brands that really "cut through."

Around 58 of the 110 Virgin Media staffers will be kept on and Sky hopes it can offer alternative opportunities to the remainder.

BSkyB bought cash-strapped Virgin Media's line-up of pay TV channels in a £160 million deal in June, part of a major investment in boosting its channel line-up and content pipeline.

A month later it announced a £150 million ($234 million) long-term deal with HBO to have exclusive first-look rights to its upcoming fare and entire library catalog, including "The Wire," "The Sopranos" and "Six Feet Under."

Similar deals with AMC and Showtime are thought to be under consideration.

"Content is at the heart of Sky's strategy," said Turner Laing.

"We are committed to offering our customers the best in pay content and by acquiring the Living TV Group, we can ensure that great content, brands and talent can work even harder for our customers."
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