News of NTL's tentative bid for ITV prompted a loud and collective guffaw in the next day's papers: ‘Wedding of the year for ITV? You couldn't make it up!' (The Daily Telegraph, 10 November); ‘A marriage made in
NT "hell"' (Daily Mail, 10 November) were typical.
‘What on earth is NTL thinking of?' demanded The Guardian (10 November).
Given NTL's poor credit rating and disappointing performance - and ITV's falling advertising revenues and ongoing search for a CEO - the proposed merger was seen as ‘two drunks hunched up against each other for support' (The Daily Telegraph, 11 November).
Even Sir Richard Branson's backing for the bid did not swing opinion: ‘It's a terrible concept on almost every level… and thoroughly deserves to fail,' blasted The Independent (11 Nov).
But opinion softened over the weekend, as NTL announced it would raise the £5bn in cash that ITV was looking for, and line up former Channel 4 boss Michael Jackson to run the broadcaster.
‘NTL and ITV: odd couple or streetwise?' asked The Observer (12 November).
The bid has all the makings of good drama - but not one in which ITV definitely wants to be involved.