Apax after ITV Digital

The firm has submitted a late bid for the failed ITV Digital station's licence, competing against offers backed by ITV, Channel 4 and the BBC.

Apax Partners has joined forces with former management from cable TV operator NTL to bid for the digital terrestrial television licences vacated by ITV Digital following its collapse earlier this year.

Apax, which earlier this year recruited former ITV Digital chief executive Stephen Grabiner, submitted its offer for the licence late yesterday and is competing against two consortia, one comprising BBC, BSkyB and transmission company Crown Castle, and the other including ITV and Channel 4, which is bidding the Digital Television Alliance.

The three bidders are split on their approach to generating revenue. The BBC consortium is proposing to offer a range of free-to-air channels, as does the ITV-Channel 4 offer, although the latter will also include a pay-per-view option also.

The Apax proposition is for a solely free-to-air network comprising 21 channels. Apax’s Stuart Fraser, who is heading the firm’s bid, believes that the pay-to-view market has matured to an extent that makes a fee-paying network unfeasible. “The network will be free-to-air with revenues being advertising-driven. We felt it was important to learn from past mistakes and it’s clear that consumers want a broader range of viewing options without having to pay for them.”

Fraser said that he was confident about the Apax offer, saying that it fulfilled all the pre-requisite criteria for success and was well-funded. “We will be offering the maximum coverage and are able to launch the service very rapidly.” The winning bid will be announced on July 4, following a public consultation.