EchoStar May 'Put' G4 Interest in 2009

G4, the video gaming network controlled by Comcast Corp., could come under full control of the cable operator if a put rights deal by its 15% partner is exercised in 2009, according to Securities and Exchange Commission documents.

According to Comcast’s 10-K annual report, its partner in G4 -- EchoStar Communications -- has the right on May 10, 2009 to put its 15% interest in the network back to Comcast at fair market value. According to the document filed Wednesday, that value would be determined by an outside appraiser. 

The May 10 date is significant in that it marks the five-year anniversary of Comcast’s acquisition of TechTV for $300 million, which it merged with G4.

There is no guarantee that EchoStar would put the G4 interest back to Comcast, but if it elects not to exercise the put right in 2009, it retains the right to do so on every successive May 10.

According to the 10-K, G4 has about 55 million subscribers. The network, which early in its history consisted mainly of Star Trek reruns, recently acquired off-network programming rights to NBC sci-fi series Heroes and ABC hit Lost.

The network also airs comedy Arrested Development and Cops to supplement its video game oriented lineup of shows such as X-Play and pop culture show Attack of the Show.

Just how much EchoStar’s interest in the network is worth is anyone’s guess. Recently, NBC Universal agreed to pay $925 million for Oxygen Media, a deal that was valued at about $12 per subscriber. While G4 would likely attract a lower multiple -- it is not fully distributed like Oxygen -- that price could value EchoStar’s interest to just under $100 million.