Scripps, NBCU Bid on Travel Channel

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Scripps Networks Interactive (SNI.N) and General Electric Co’s (GE.N) NBC Universal are among media companies that have bid for Cox Enterprises’ Travel Channel, in an auction expected to fetch $600 million to $700 million, two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

The first round of bids were due Tuesday, and a deadline for a second round has not been set yet, the sources said, requesting anonymity because the auction process has not been made public.

Cox, Scripps Networks and NBC Universal were not immediately available for comment.

Time Warner Inc (TWX.N), Comcast Corp (CMCSA.O), News Corp (NWSA.O) and IAC/InterActiveCorp (IACI.O) were also expected to bid for the asset, according to the sources, but it was unclear if they had put in official bids yet. Goldman Sachs (GS.N) is handling the auction.

The Travel Channel is known for shows such as “Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations,” in which Bourdain travels around the world to showcase local cuisines; and “Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern,” in which Zimmern tries out unusual delicacies such as lamb eyeballs, squirrel brains and tiger pie from places such as Tanzania and Nicaragua.

Interest in the Travel Channel has been expected to be widespread among media companies, which have seen cable networks weather the recession better than other media businesses that have been deeply hurt by the pullback in advertising.

Cable networks are not entirely dependent on advertising revenue because they also receive affiliate fees from cable and satellite operators.

Cox acquired Travel Channel in 2007, receiving $1.275 billion in cash along with the channel in exchange for its 25 percent stake in Discovery Communications Inc (DISCA.O).

With 99.1 million subscribers, the expected valuations of $600 million to $700 million for Travel Channel compute to about $6 to $7 per subscriber — a far cry from the $35 per subscriber the Weather Channel sold for last July.

Industry experts have said that one of the reasons for the lower valuations is Weather Channel’s strong brand positioning online, which warrants a premium as more subscribers and advertisers move to the Internet. (Reporting by Jui Chakravorty; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)