Sundance Channel On Block: Analyst

Sundance Channel, which promotes environmentally friendly fare through its The Green programming strand, is looking for green of another kind: The network co-founded by Robert Redford might be joining The Weather Channel on the cable selling block.

Pali Research analyst Richard Greenfield wrote in a report, citing “multiple” sources that Sundance, which counts some 26 million subscribers, was seeking a minimum of $400 million, which would value it at $15 per sub.

The report suggested that Sundance, whose ownership comprises a 55% stake by NBC Universal, 35% control by CBS’s Showtime unit and 10% by Redford, who founded the service a dozen years ago, was looking to receive closer to $500 million.

Greenfield listed Viacom, Time Warner and Cablevision, which owns Sundance rival IFC, as prospective buyers. Sundance officials declined comment.

Bids for Weather Channel and its Web site, were due March 10. Some have suggested the asking priice -- parent Landmark Communications has also included a pair of CBS-affiliates TV stations and over 100 community weekly and daily newspapers in the auction -- could be as high as $5 billion. Most analysts believe the bids came in significantly below that mark.

In November, NBC Universal closed on a deal for Geraldine Laybourne’s women’s-targeted Oxygen Media. The deal for the independent Oxygen, which counts some 74 million subscribers, fetched some $875 million, net of financial assets, officials said.

Another independent network is no longer officially on the market. Crown Media in August 2005 began searching for a buyer for Hallmark Channel, but took the for-sale sign down in 2006, after not getting its purported $2 billion price, as a number of significant carriage deals were set to expire at the end of 2007.Since then, Hallmark has firmed up its distribution base, inking renewals with increased affiliate license fees. Only Cablevision Systems remains without a new pact with the family-friendly programmer. 

Last week during its fourth-quarter call with analysts, Crown CEO Henry Schleiff, talking up the distribution contracts, the network’s ratings success and stronger financials, said: “The focus is on running our business in the best interests of the shareholders and the business. It’s not on whether we’re for sale or not for sale. We’re not for sale, and let me emphasize that,”