Scripps tells Cox it wants to buy out its 35% stake in Travel Channel

Scripps Networks Interactive is looking to assume complete ownership of the Travel Channel and has told Cox Communications that it plans to buy out the MSO's 35 percent stake in the cable channel.

"This notification started the valuation process for the transaction and we expect the transaction will be completed by the end of first quarter," said Scripps CFO Lori Hickok during her company's fourth-quarter earnings call Tuesday. 

A Cox rep had no comment for FierceCable.

Asked by one investment analyst to describe the mechanism in which Cox's 35 percent stake will change hands — arbitration or mediation? — Hickok said, "There is a process. There's a prescribed process in valuation. It's a typical one where we get a value, they get a value. And if they're within a certain amount, you're fine. If not, there's a third. So it's a very orderly process."

Scripps acquired a majority stake in Travel Channel in 2009 for $975 million. The network is now Scripps' second-most distributed brand and is viewed in more than 130 countries across Europe, the Middle East, Africa and the Asia-Pacific region. 

Ratings-wise, the network has been a middling performer. Scripps is currently rebranding the channel, under the watch of new programming chief Courtney White, who was just hired in December. 

"We focused on developing programming themes for the Travel Channel to develop a strong network identity," Hickok added. "We've reevaluated our programming library and elected to write off a larger-than-normal amount of Travel Channel programming in the fourth quarter."

Scripps also announced its intention to try to buy a minority stake in the Food Network from Tribune. 

For more:
- read this Seeking Alpha transcript
- read this Broadcasting & Cable story

Related articles:
Travel Channel President Laureen Ong resigns
Cox to close down the rest of its 'Flare'-branded digital services
Report: Cox posted short-lived anti-cord-cutting 'manifesto'