Scripps Likes Food, Travel

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Scripps Networks Interactive is in the hunt for cable programming assets, including some it knows very well, chief financial officer Joe NeCastro said last Wednesday.

NeCastro, speaking at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia conference, said Scripps is among those looking at Travel Channel, which went up for auction earlier this year, but also has an interest in acquiring the 31% interest in the Food Network it doesn’t own. That stake is currently held by bankrupt Tribune Co.

NeCastro said Travel Channel would fit well with Scripps’s cable networks: HGTV, Food Network, Fine Living, DIY and Great American Country.

“Given the nature of that net, the size of it and the genre that it is in, it makes a lot of sense for us to take a look at it,” NeCastro said, adding that Scripps would not overpay. “That’s the hard work right now, to try and dig in and figure out if, A, it can be acquired at a reasonable price and, B, whether there would be anything left to invest in SNI.”

Meanwhile, “There is a cable asset out there that we like very much, and we own 69% of it already,” NeCastro said of Food Network. “That is always at the back of our minds when we think of capacity. That is probably priority No. 1. If we were thinking about investing, that would probably be it.”

Food Network has been one of Scripps’ highest-growth assets. NeCastro added that one roadblock to any potential deal would be the price of Tribune’s stake.

“We have a sense of what we think its worth, based on our outlook for the asset,” NeCastro said. “They [Tribune] probably have their own. They may believe it’s worth more than we think it is, in which case we’ll never get any thing done. But I do believe that the dynamics facing Tribune post bankruptcy will be different and we’ll have to see how that plays out.”

Tribune, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in December, was one of the original founders of Food Network when it launched in 1993.