The boring company that may play it’s part in saving ITV 

23 February 2009 tbs.pm/1024

ITV considers selling Freeview business

Much of broadcasting is a rather boring sounding but essential business. Take SDN for example. It runs a multiplex on Freeview, meaning it provides the infrastructure that runs a sixth of the digital terrestrial television spectrum.

SDN doesn’t run any channels, and due to a complicated setup, only actually controls half of the broadcast spectrum it owns. And that half is only in England, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

The other half is sub-leased to Five, because SDN’s broadcast space must broadcast Channel 5. And the remaining half in Wales is under the hands of S4C, which is also, co-incidentally, one of the companies who set up SDN (or S4C Digital Networks to give it it’s true name) in the first place.

SDN is, by it’s nature, an inherently boring company. However it makes money and is profitable. It’s also owned by ITV plc who are a more interesting company on the outset, and not just because they’re a broadcaster. ITV plc is also interesting because it is suffering a loss of advertising revenues, is seen by many to be in terminal decline, and has debt issues. Serious debt issues.

When ITV plc bought SDN for £134m just four years ago, it was seen as being a key part of the future for the company. It gave ITV plc broadcast spectrum on which to launch new channels when it desired.

Ironically it’s now potentially going to play a key role in ITV’s future in a very different way – in providing ITV plc with a much needed shot in the arm when the world looks very bleak indeed.

It’s not enough by itself – nowhere near. But it could play its part in helping ITV re-focus its activities and work out what it wants to be in the future. If it has a future that is…