'ITV wins vacant Freeview slot'

ITV is said to have won one of the two vacant Freeview channel slots in a deal worth more than £5m. Broadcast magazine further reported that Channel 4 was "on the brink" of agreeing a deal for the second slot.

Freeview co-owner Crown Castle UK, which launched an auction for the spare channel slot in January, refused to comment on the report. A spokesman described it as "speculation".

Broadcast said ITV had paid more than £5m for the 18-hours-per-day channel slot. ITV is expected to use the capacity to broadcast its Men & Motors channel ahead of the launch of a rebranded channel, ITV4, aimed at the young male audience.

Broadcast said the second channel would be available from June 1. Channel 4 had not yet decided how it would use the slot, but planned to launch a channel by the later summer.

Crown Castle UK CEO Peter Abery recently said he and fellow Freeview backers the BBC and BSkyB would welcome ITV and Channel Four as additional stakeholders in Britain's fast-growing digital terrestrial platform.

The move followed confirmation from ITV chief executive Charles Allen that Freeview was key to to the commercial broadcaster's digital strategy since it "offers the simplest upgrade route for our viewers".

Several companies, including Five, Turner, Top-Up TV, Disney, NBC Universal and Sit-Up TV, entered the race for the spare channel slots. But ITV and Channel 4 remained the frontrunners.

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