Channel Zero buys two E! stations

Canwest trying to unload three other properties

TORONTO -- Canadian broadcaster Canwest Global Communications on Tuesday said it has sold two of its struggling E!-branded TV stations to domestic cable broadcaster Channel Zero.

Canwest Global, which first announced last February that its five E! over-the-air stations were on the auction block, said CHCH-TV in Hamilton and CJNT-TV in Montreal will go to Channel Zero for an unspecified price.

The deal, which awaits regulatory approval, is contingent on Channel Zero retaining all current employees at the two stations, and securing a new collective agreement for CHCH workers with the Communications, Energy & Paperworkers Union of Canada.

Canwest Global said investment bank RBC Capital Markets will continue to field possible buying interest for its three remaining E!-branded stations in British Columbia's Kelowna and Victoria and Red Deer, Alberta.

The Canadian broadcaster has said repeatedly during the sales process that the E! stations will be closed down should they fail to sell.

Canwest Global's E! network since 2007 offered a mix of local and U.S. series in primetime and library programming from the Comcast Entertainment Group's U.S.-based E! Networks as part of its daytime and weekend schedules.

CHCH and CJNT-TV are expected to abandon their supply deal with Comcast as they adopt a local news format during day-time and movies and music videos at night.