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Five and Top Up TV team up to extend free and pay services

LONDON – Five is to invest in digital business Top Up TV in a deal that comes a day after Ofcom granted the broadcaster a second licence to launch digital and cable television services.

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The partnership will support Five's plans to launch further free-to-air channels and a range of pay services.

Five says it is confident that the relationship with Top Up TV, which launched in 2004 and offers Freeview viewers 11 extra channels such as UKTV Gold and Discovery Channel, will present a number of opportunities to launch free-to-air services during 2006.

David Chance, Top Up TV chairman, said: "We have an excellent relationship growth with Five and extending it in this way is a natural step for our continued growth."

Five's chief executive, Jane Lighting, said that the network will reveal more details in the New Year.

It is believed that Five, Channel 4, Disney, Sit-Up TV and Top-Up TV are among the potential bidders for the new Freeview channel, which was made available by transmission company Crown Castle after additional broadcast space was added to the free-to-air digital service. 

ITV reportedly pulled out of the bidding war after more than 12 broadcasters' bids pushed the price through the roof.

The deal could be worth millions of pounds after Channel 4 and ITV were understood to have paid £5m for earlier slots that carry More4 and ITV4 respectively.

Five was launched in 1997 as the fifth terrestrial channel. It attracted an average audience share of 6.5% last year.

Channels on Top Up TV also include Cartoon Network and British Eurosport. It costs Freeview viewers £7.99 a month with no annual contract.

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