The deal for the small broadcaster means Northern Ireland-based UTV and Scotland’s STV are the only other holders of the 15 licences to broadcast on channel 3. The terms of the deal, which is subject to regulatory approval, were not disclosed.
Consolidation had seemed unlikely after chief executive Adam Crozier said he is focussed on acquiring content producers to bolster ITV’s flagging production house.
Speculation has now reemerged that STV, which holds two licences, and UTV could be targets for ITV. Analysts have long argued the acquisitions would make commercial sense, allowing ITV to strip out costs.
A deal with STV is more likely now the two firms have settled a long-running programming dispute. STV agreed to pay ITV £18m to compensate for what ITV said was a shortfall in its network programme contributions.
UTV Media, which also owns TalkSport, has previously held merger talks with STV.