Disney-ABC Television, NBC Universal and the Hearst Corp. are reportedly in talks to significantly increase their ownership collaboration in the cable world.
TV trade publication “Broadcasting & Cable” reported Wednesday that the trio would add Lifetime to the A&E Networks portfolio it already owns and operates jointly. No statement has yet been issued confirming these talks.
Currently, A&E Networks, which includes the A&E flagship channel, History Channel and Bio, among others, is 25 percent owned by NBC, with Disney and Hearst controlling 37.5 percent each.
Lifetime, which includes the Lifetime Channel and Lifetime Movies, is a 50-50 joint venture between Disney and Hearst.
The deal would simplify all of that — putting A&E and Lifetime together in one uniformly managed package.
If brought into NBC Universal’s fold, Lifetime would make an attractive addition to the portfolio for advertisers, combining the incumbent female-targeted platforms like Bravo and Oxygen that skew a bit younger with one that skews a bit older. The channel’s burgeoning broadband portfolio, also would fit in nicely.
And, ironically, NBC Universal CEO Jeff Zucker would have reality hit “Project Runway” — which bolted Bravo for Lifetime last year and sparked a court battle — back in his purview.
Since A&E and Lifetime currently exists in separate ownership groups, combining them into one also would provide management efficiencies for Disney and Hearst.
“We leave some money on the table by not managing them as a whole, meaning one company,” Disney CEO Bob Iger told Multichannel News last year.
If it amounts to something, the deal would signal yet more collaboration between Disney-ABC and NBC Universal, with the pair already partnering on online video site Hulu.