Discovery Said to Exit Bidding for U.K.’s Channel 5

Discovery Communications Inc. dropped out of the bidding process for U.K.’s Channel 5, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.

Discovery offered about 350 million pounds ($588 million) for the broadcaster owned by Richard Desmond’s Northern & Shell, said the person, who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly and asked not to be identified. The TV station that airs “Britain’s Crime Capitals” and “Celebrity Big Brother” may sell for more than 400 million pounds, the person said.

British Sky Broadcasting Group Plc, the satellite pay-TV service controlled by Rupert Murdoch, had been working with Discovery on the offer. Viacom Inc., controlled by Sumner Redstone, has also taken part in the sale process, people familiar with the talks said yesterday. Desmond’s company will evaluate the bids with advisers in the coming days, according to Mimi Turner, a Northern & Shell spokeswoman.

Discovery’s decision to quit the Channel 5 sales process was reported yesterday by the Wall Street Journal.

Desmond is seeking to cash in on the growing demand for TV assets as more people watch on the Internet and mobile devices, and as operators including HBO, BSkyB and AMC ramp up investment in content and sign Hollywood actors to star in shows. Desmond, who once owned the license to publish Penthouse in the U.K., bought Channel 5 from Bertelsmann AG’s RTL Group SA in 2010 for 103.5 million pounds.

Desmond initially sought more than 700 million pounds for the station. He has also considered an initial public offering instead of selling, people familiar with the plan said this month.

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