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Discovery Networks and Scripps in race to buy Virgin's UKTV stake

Process to be completed in the next few months

Virgin Media, which is in search for a buyer for its 50 per cent stake in UKTV, has narrowed down its search to Discovery Networks and Scripps, it emerged on Tuesday.

However, the cable company still has to reach an agreement with its UKTV joint venture partner, BBC Worldwide, which owns the remaining 50 per cent stake in the pay-TV business.

Virgin Media values its stake in UKTV, formed in 1997 as a 50/50 joint venture with the BBC's commercial arm, at about £350m including outstanding loans of £116m.

Virgin has extended the deadline for receiving final bids from the middle of last month as most of the bidders sought more time to try to solve outstanding issues, other than the sale price, before tabling a deal.

The outstanding issues include video-on-demand rights for UKTV programmes as well as the details of a joint-venture partnership with BBC Worldwide, which will retain editorial control of channels including Dave and Gold.

Sources indicated to Guardian that the sale process will be completed in the next few months.

While Discovery has the benefit of having worked with the BBC as a commercial partner since 1997 in the joint venture, Scripps Networks focuses on lifestyle media and is on an expansion drive.