Scripps Networks close to buying Virgin's UKTV stake

US media company recently held exclusive talks with British cable company offering to buy its half o

US cable broadcaster Scripps Networks Interactive Inc is on the verge of buying Virgin Media's 50 per cent stake in UKTV, jointly owned by BBC Worldwide and Virgin, for about $500m (£319m).

According to the Wall Street Journal, the US media company, which owns cable channels such as Food Network and Travel Channel, recently held exclusive talks with the British cable company offering to buy its half ownership in UKTV.

While Virgin is firm on raising around £350m from the sale and is keen on using the funds for clearing its corporate debt, Scripps also seems to be interested in the deal as it would get a strong presence in the UK market. Negotiators are understood to be working out a final price.

BBC Worldwide, which has first refusal rights on the 50 per cent UKTV stake, is unlikely to pursue a complete acquisition. However, the new owner should be endorsed by the BBC's commercial arm.

Scripps and Worldwide have reached an in-principle agreement about how the new UKTV joint venture would operate.

Discovery Communications was earlier in the race to acquire the stake, but dropped out recently.