Times to Put Discovery Times Stake

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The New York Times Co. wasted little time in taking advantage of a window that allowed it to put its 50% interest in Discovery Times Channel back to partner Discovery Communications Inc.

According to a press release Thursday announcing its first-quarter results, NYT said it decided to put its interest back to DCI April 8. The price paid will be determined by a formula with a floor of $80 million and a ceiling of $135 million, to be calculated by an independent appraiser. In the release, NYT said the appraiser has not yet been selected.

NYT -- which purchased its interest in the channel in 2002 for $100 million -- said in the release that its investment balance in the channel was about $104 million.

In a Securities and Exchange Commission filing in March, Discovery Holding Co. -- the publicly traded entity that includes Liberty Media Corp.’s 50% interest in DCI -- said it had estimated the value of NYT’s interest in Discovery Times to be about $103.1 million.

In a prepared statement, DCI said the digital channel has more than doubled its subscribers since its launch from 14 million to more than 39 million households, adding that the service is profitable and will retain its name and current programming strategy. DCI also plans to continue its strong relationship with NYT, including with its top journalists.

In the statement, NYT chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr. praised the performance of the network but said his company decided that its resources were best used in developing video for its Web site (www.nytimes.com).

“We believe that shorter-form pieces, such as the video we are currently producing on nytimes.com, serve us well,” Sulzberger said. “With broadband penetration increasing, video has proven popular with both users and advertisers. Increasingly, that is where we will focus our efforts. Given the strong partnership we’ve had, we plan to continue to look at media opportunities with Discovery going forward.”

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