Report: Disney, Hearst, NBCU Explore Lifetime, A&E Combo

An interesting remake of a TV programming deal may be in the works. Citing multiple sources, B&C is reporting that Hearst, NBC Universal (NYSE: GE) and Disney (NYSE: DIS) are considering merging their A&E Television Networks joint venture with Lifetime, which is owned equally by Hearst and Disney through a different joint venture. In the version of the deal being reported, NBCU, which owns 25 percent of AETN, would gain a percentage of Lifetime — the same network it went to court with over the switch of hit reality show Project Runway from Bravo.

B&C says the stopping point so far has been valuing assets in a down market. AETN includes A&E, History Channel, Bio, Military History, Crime & Investigation and History en Espanol.

Hearst and Disney also co-own ESPN, but I’d put the chances of Disney agreeing to a deal with NBCU that would include the sports powerhouse somewhere between “cold day in hell” and “slim and none.” Granted, I’ve been surprised before. Yes, Disney is in the final stages of joining NBCU and News Corp (NYSE: NWS). as the broadcast anchors of Hulu — the actual deal close is still a month or so away — but ESPN was kept out of that and I’m not sure what Disney and Hearst would gain by sharing it with a rival broadcast network.

Women@NBCU: As luck would have it, when this story came out I was talking with someone immersed in women’s media (not in TV) who told me she doesn’t think Women@NBCU, the cross-platform ad platform set up to target women, is big enough. Adding Lifetime to Bravo, Oxygen, iVillage and the other NBCU properties in the mix would expand its reach, although I’m not sure if it would do a lot to grow younger demographics.

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