itv buys friends reunited

UK independent broadcasting company ITV has reportedly bought Friends Reunited for £120 million in cash with a further £55 million bonus possible based on performance to 2009. Friends Reunited allows people to find and make contact (if they pay the membership fee) with former classmates, workmates, etc.

This is, on many fronts, a surprise. ITV, the company created when Granada and Carlton merged, is currently struggling financially. About two years ago Granada all but closed it’s online division where I had formerly worked. The area that Granada Broadband was profitable in was developing and managing online communities for third party clients and a group of former Granada staff working in this area left Granada to create a successful moderation company, Tempero . In addition to working in the community department, another part of my role at Granada was to look at developing local websites for each of the ITV regions but there seemed to be little interest and no money from the regional companies at the time. Now there are starting to be rumours of a new local push to take place online – possibly broadband local TV at a time when the BBC is trialling a similar service in the West Midlands.

Now it would seem that ITV, which closed it’s programme websites as well as it’s online community department just 2 years ago, has become interested in the net again. [Granada and Carlton were also investors in a few years ago but the corporate website seems to indicate that they have returned their interest to AskJeeves Inc in the US] They’ve paid a huge amount of money for a website that, it could be argued, is based on a format copied from the earlier (1995 vs 1999) US website . Is this a smart move? Is this purchase somehow connected to the rumoured “ITV Local”?