Viacom, Discovery, Scripps, Saban Bid U.K.'s

Channel 5 owner Richard Desmond is seeking bids of about $1.17 billion

LONDON — Viacom, Discovery Communications, Saban Capital and Scripps Networks are among the bidders to buy U.K. free-TV network Channel 5, according to the Financial Times, which cited a source familiar with the process.

Discovery had been in discussions with BSkyB to table a joint bid, with BSkyB taking over Channel 5’s advertising sales operation, the Financial Times reported last week.

None of the companies would comment on the sale, which has also attracted bids from European buyers. The sale is being managed by Barclays.

U.K. commercial broadcaster ITV, one of Channel 5’s main rivals, ruled itself out of the auction earlier this week.

Channel 5 owner Richard Desmond is seeking a price of about £700 million ($1.17 billion). He bought the net for £104 million ($174 million) in 2010, and has since slashed costs, and revamped its skeds.

It is a major buyer of Hollywood movies and series. This week’s sked include movies “Legally Blonde,” “The Covenant” and “The Last of The Mohicans,” and series “NCIS,” “The Mentalist” and “American Idol.”

Its biggest success has been “Big Brother.”

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