from Claire Atkinson of Broadcasting & Cable:

Disney-ABC Television, Hearst Corporation and NBC Universal are discussing a change in their joint ownership of A&E Television Networks, according to three separate sources. The three partners are talking about creating a new joint venture which would fold in women’s cable brand Lifetime, giving NBC Universal a stake in the bigger company.

“There is some discussion of taking A&E, History and Lifetime and putting them together with the same three players,” said one source close to talks. Hearst and ABC also jointly own ESPN, though it’s not thought to be part of the discussion. A separate executive said a deal would likely be made within the month.

Disney-ABC TV and Hearst each own 37.5% in A&E Television Networks and NBC Universal holds the remaining 25%. Lifetime is run by a 50/50 joint venture of Hearst and Walt Disney Co, called Lifetime Entertainment Services.

When complete, the deal will expand a growing relationship between Disney-ABC and NBC Universal which are also partners in the online video company Hulu. Disney announced a deal for an approximate 30% stake in the venture, also owned by News Corp. in April, NBC Universal, a unit of General Electric, had expressed a desire to own more cable programming assets.

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Posted by:TV By The Numbers

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