Scripps takes majority NDTV Lifestyle stake

Transaction will be completed by Q1 2010

NEW DELHI -- Scripps Networks Interactive has bought a 69% stake for $55 million in leading broadcaster New Delhi Television Group's lifestyle programming subsidiary NDTV Lifestyle, which operates NDTV's Good Times channel.

The transaction is to be completed by the first quarter of 2010 according to a company statement Friday with NDTV retaining 31% ownership in NDTV Lifestyle.

Meanwhile, NDTV's entertainment subsidiary NDTV Imagine recently saw the exit of equity partner NBC Universal, who bought a 26% stake for $150 million last May in London-incorporated unit NDTV Networks Plc. Last month, NDTV informed the Bombay Stock Exchange without giving figures that it was buying back NBCU's stake and since then, there have been rumors that Turner International is eyeing a stake in NDTV's entertainment subsidiary which runs Hindi channel NDTV Imagine.

NDTV's statement also said that in a separate transaction the company has repurchased London-based NDTV Networks Plc's $100 million step up coupon bonds due 2012 for $72.4 million. This is seen as a move that frees NDTV to pursue fresh investors for its entertainment subsidiary following the exit of NBCU.

“Consequent to the repurchase of the bonds by NDTV Networks Plc, the restrictive covenants, which were applicable have ceased, allowing NDTV Networks Plc and its subsidiaries flexibility for restructuring and financing the businesses including being able to access bank finances for working capital and other requirements,” NDTV said.

The NDTV Lifestyle-Scripps deal comes within a fortnight of the Scripps Network picking up a majority stake in Travel Channel for over $1 billion. Last month, India's Foreign Investment Promotion Board approved a proposal from Travel Channel International to set up a wholly-owned Indian subsidiary.

Scripps Networks also owns the Food Network, Fine Living Network (FLN) and country music network Great American Country among its bouquet of lifestyle channels. Scripps Networks Interactive is a leading lifestyle content developer for television and the Internet and runs online search and comparison shopping services BizRate and Shopzilla.

NDTV Good Times was launched in 2007 in association with Indian liquor baron and Force India Formula 1 racing team owner Vijay Mallya's Kingfisher beer. It offers personality-driven programming and Internet content covering food, travel, fashion and style.

In addition to operating NDTV Good Times, Scripps Networks Interactive and NDTV Group plan to launch other lifestyle television channels through the NDTV Lifestyle partnership, the statement said.

NDTV Lifestyle CEO Smeeta Chakrabarti will continue in her role after the transaction is completed as will other members of the NDTV Lifestyle management team.