Vacancies at the top of British broadcasting don’t arise very often — and then two come along at once. Earlier this year, the heads of big commercial broadcasters ITV and Channel 4 announced within weeks of each other that they were quitting, setting off a leadership scramble at a time when the industry was already undergoing dramatic change. With ad revenue and audiences increasingly moving online, the broadcasters’ new bosses look set to preside over defining moments for each of their organizations.
Channel 4, the new home of “The Great British Bake Off,” has tapped seasoned TV exec Alex Mahon to take over from David Abraham in the fall. No replacement has been announced yet for Adam Crozier, who exits ITV’s headquarters for good June 30.
His departure after seven successful years at the helm has intensified talk of a sale of ITV. But one of the biggest prizes in Europe’s most valuable television market comes at a hefty price: With a market cap of £7.5 billion ($9.6 billion), ITV will cost a buyer about $15.3 billion. Still, with the pound at a historic low against the dollar in the wake of last year’s Brexit vote, that’s less pricey than it used to be for international suitors. Comcast, Discovery and Liberty Media —which already has a 9.9% stake in ITV — are all rumored to be interested.
Crozier admits that the cheap pound has provided fresh impetus for potential buyers but denies that a sale is a foregone conclusion. “I don’t think it’s inevitable,” he said recently at a media conference in London. He also dismissed a suggestion by Liberty’s John Malone that ITV is overpriced. “I could argue we are undervalued because of very short-term issues around advertising. Perhaps ITV is just too expensive for them.”
Analysts side with Crozier. Ian Whittaker, head of European media research at investment bank Liberum Capital, says ITV is an attractive asset. “People have focused on the fact John Malone has said ITV is overpriced more than the fact that he has said he wants to buy it,” Whittaker said. “Why would he hold 10% if he wasn’t interested or didn’t think someone else was?”