Scripps, News, NBCU Seen Bidding on Travel Channel

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Scripps Networks Interactive, News Corp. and NBC Universal are among the first round of bidders for Cox Communications' majority interest in the Travel Channel, according to published reports.

Cox acquired the Travel Channel in 2007 after it restructured its interest in Discovery Communications. It received cash and the channel in return for its 25% stake in Discovery.

The Atlanta-based media giant hired New York investment bank Goldman Sachs in June to explore strategic alternatives, including joint ventures and a possible sale of the channel, home to such shows as Bridget's Sexiest Beaches.

Cox held the first round of bidding on Aug. 19, according to reports in Bloomberg News and Reuters. A second round has not yet been scheduled.

According to those reports, NBCU, News and Scripps were among the bidders.

While it could not be determined how much either party bid for the channel, analysts have valued the network at between $600 million and $700 million.

Other bidders that were expected to join the fray include Time Warner Inc., Comcast and IAC/InterActiveCorp.

NBCU senior vice president of communications Kathy Kelly-Brown and Scripps Networks vice president of communications and investor relations Mark Kroeger declined to comment. Officials with News Corp. and Cox Communications also declined to comment on the auction.

While the Travel Channel is fully distributed — it is in 90 million homes — and occupies a niche that could fit in well with Scripps, News and NBCU, one roadblock to the deal could be Cox's reported insistence that it retain an interest in the network for tax purposes.

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