TW ruling Court TV?

NBC may sell stake; Discovery cools on bid

NEW YORK — The latest twist in the Court TV saga has Time Warner taking over management of the cable channel, sources close to the situation said.

In this new scenario, Liberty Media Corp. would keep a minority stake in Court TV and NBC would sell its stake in the net-work. Time Warner, Liberty and NBC currently each own one-third of the legal channel.

Discovery Communications, which was hotly pursuing Court TV last week with a $320 million bid, has cooled on its interest to purchase the channel.

“As each day that goes by, it becomes less likely,” said a source, talking about Discovery’s bid.

Deal in danger

Insiders cautioned that Time Warner’s latest deal to control the network could fall apart. Court TV has effectively been in limbo as its owners have bickered among themselves about how the network should be run.

Several months ago, Time Warner investigated taking over management control of Court TV but backed away. The net-works’ three owners then solicited bids, including a $300 million offer from Evercore Partners, which had teamed with NBC executive VP Tom Rogers.

Planned program change

If Time Warner does take control of Court TV, the channel will retain its trial programming format. Discovery had wanted to buy the network’s 33 million subscribers and use them to launch one of its new channels, such as Discovery Health.

However, several of Court TV’s cable system affiliates made it known that they would drop the channel from their systems if its programming format was changed.

If Time Warner succeeds in taking over management of Court TV, the network would be run by the company’s Turner Broadcasting division. Time Warner vice chairman Ted Turner had opposed selling Court TV to Discovery because he believed the channel would compete with CNN.

A Time Warner representative had no comment on Court TV.