After a months-long auction process that included some of the biggest names in cable programming, Scripps Networks Interactive has emerged as the winner for the Travel Channel, agreeing to pay about $1 billion for a 65% interest in the network.
Travel Channel parent Cox Communications first put the network on the block in June after receiving unsolicited inquiries, and hired Goldman Sachs as a financial adviser.
Early in the process, bidders included media giants like Time Warner Inc., Scripps, Viacom, News Corp., and a consortium including private equity giant Providence Equity. That list was pared down to News and Scripps in later bidding stages, as the price of the network continued to rise - initially, analysts had valued Travel Channel at between $600 million and $700 million. According to several reports, News Corp. was said to be in the lead for the network, but dropped out of the bidding last week when it determined the price was too rich.
According to the deal, Scripps will pay $181 million in cash and guarantee a third-party loan for $878 million that will be distributed to Cox. Cox will retain a 35% interest in the joint venture.
"This solid partnership we're establishing today allows us to maintain an interest in Travel Channel while at the same time giving the network an opportunity to leverage the resources and expertise of a successful programmer like Scripps Networks Interactive," Cox CEO Patrick Esser said in a statement. "Scripps has an outstanding reputation as a company, an employer and a programmer. Over the past 15 years, Scripps Networks Interactive has built a portfolio of leading lifestyle programming brands and we think this complementary expertise will be a boon to Travel Channel's future growth."
The network will join other Scripps channels like HGTV, Food Network, DIY and the Cooking Channel (formerly Fine Living), which will be on the menu next year.
"Adding the Travel Channel and its related enterprises provides us with a unique opportunity to meaningfully expand our portfolio into a lifestyle category that is highly desirable to media consumers, advertisers and programming distributors," Scripps chairman and CEO Kenneth Lowe said in a statement. "Among cable companies, Cox has an outstanding reputation for its vision and investment for the long-term success of its businesses. We look forward to partnering with them in this venture."
Scripps was expected to report third quarter earnings later today, but has postponed its conference call with analysts until Friday. The company said it will discuss the Travel Channel deal on the Friday call.