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Tuesday, January 19, 1999 Published at 17:36 GMT


Thunderbirds are going, going, gone

Gordon, Jeff, Alan and Virgil Tracy have a new owner

Media conglomerate Carlton Communications has spent £91 million buying a library of over 300 classic film and TV productions from Hollywood giant Universal Studios.

The collection includes legendary movies such as The Eagle Has Landed, Sophie's Choice and The Big Easy, plus a clutch of archive ITV shows including Thunderbirds, The Saint, Captain Scarlett and the mini-series Jesus of Nazereth.

The films were part of the ITC television and film library, which was set up by the now-defunct ITV company ATV, owned by the late impresario Lord Grade.

[ image: Lord Grade: His company ATV set up the ITC library]
Lord Grade: His company ATV set up the ITC library
The library was eventually taken over by Polygram Filmed Entertainment, which was bought out by Seagram, Universal's parent company, in a wider takeover of Polygram's business last year.

The deal means Carlton can sell the broadcast rights to the films as well as use the library for its own channels.

Carlton runs the London weekday ITV franchise, owns Central TV - ATV's successor in the Midlands -, Westcountry TV and 50% of digital TV service ONdigital.

Carlton chairman Michael Green said: "The ITC library is a jewel in the crown. We can now unite it with the other gems from Britain's film and television heritage in our excellent library."

The deal doubles the stock of its library division Carlton International, giving it a total of 15,000 hours of programming.

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