Media: Lifeline - Flextech TV

Rumour has it Telewest is planning to sell the US oil company turned broadcaster

1992: UK Gold launches with the backing of the BBC, Thames TV and a former US oil company called Flextech. The channel screens shows including The Bill, Porridge and EastEnders. Nick Milligan (pictured), formerly of Thames TV, joins as the sales director.

1994: Flextech merges with United Artists Programming, the European arm of Denver's Tele-Communications Inc. It takes over channels including Bravo and the children's channel TCC in exchange for giving TCI's international arm a majority stake. The deal makes Flextech one of the biggest suppliers of programmes to cable and satellite television.

1997: Flextech and BBC Worldwide launch a tranche of new joint-venture pay-TV channels following the signing of a historic 30-year deal between the two broadcasters. Both companies hope that the new channels, which include Arena, Horizons and Style, will emulate the success of UK Gold. They are also evidence of the BBC's wider ambitions to transform itself into a global broadcaster with a more diverse revenue stream.

2004: Four years after being purchased by the cable distribution business Telewest, Flextech's sales division, IDS, is the subject of an internal investigation, following allegations of an illicit payment of £5 million in sur-commissions to media agencies. IDS is subsequently exonerated, but the investigation prevents it from making long-term deals with agencies at the height of the trading season.

2005: Speculation grows that Telewest will sell Flextech. Likely bidders include Discovery Communications and Viacom. The sales supremo Mark Howe (pictured) departs IDS amid rumours of a fall-out with Lisa Opie, the managing director of Flextech TV.

Fast forward ...

2006: Viacom secures control of Flextech following a frantic bidding process that sees the business go for a massive premium. This reflects the fact that it's the last opportunity to grab a chunk of the digital TV market. The UKTV channels are now sold alongside MTV and VH1. Howe makes a brief appearance on-screen on UKTV Style, showing viewers around his boathouse "crib".