Media Lifeline: Growth of ntl

Ntl's talks with ITV suggest that it plans to build on its merger with Virgin Mobile.

1996: International Cable Tel, a US-owned multinational cable TV company, which is building networks in six UK franchise areas, acquires ntl (the owner of commercial television's network of terrestrial broadcasting antennae) in a deal worth £200 million. But the Cable Tel boss, Barclay Knapp, decides to dump his company name and use ntl's for the whole enlarged company.

2003: Ntl becomes one of two dominant players in the UK cable industry after buying Comcast, Comtel and CWC. But doing this plunges ntl into debt; it files for Chapter 11 protection from creditors. In 2003, it restructures its debt. Simon Duffy (pictured) becomes the chief executive.

2005: Now UK cable consolidation approaches the endgame, as the two remaining players, ntl and Telewest, enter merger talks. The unified company has more than five million customers - and it vows to take the fight to its major competitors, BSkyB in digital television and BT in the broadband and telephony market.

January 2006: Ntl seeks to evolve from a triple-play company into a four-play outfit when Sir Richard Branson (pictured) accepts an offer for Virgin Mobile. But the ntl:Telewest merger isn't properly bedded in and the company is still making cost-cutting redundancies.

November 2006: But that doesn't stop ntl entering into talks to buy ITV - which, although it has been leaderless for weeks and underperforming for months, has still successfully fended off takeover moves in the recent past. A successful ntl bid, installing the former Channel 4 boss Michael Jackson as the network boss, would also likely involve prolonged regulatory scrutiny.

Fast forward - 2007: Having failed to gain full control of ITV, ntl turns its attention to other thrusting 21st-century media brands with potential in the multiplatform online and mobile digital age. So it is no surprise when it snaps up the Telegraph Group, fresh from its acquisition of ITN. Greg Dyke is headhunted for the vacant chief operating officer (content creation) role as it vows to continue its ambitions in TV production.

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