What’s Cox doing with the Travel Channel? That was the question on everyone’s mind Thurs after Discovery announced plans to buy the MSO’s 25% shareholder stake for $1.27bln, plus Travel Channel and museum audio tour business Antenna Audio. Some programmers quickly piped up that they might be interested in taking the net off the hands of Cox, which only owns some regional sports nets and has some interest in national nets. "We didn’t do [the deal] to do that," Cox chief Pat Esser told Cfax. "My intent is to put it inside my portfolio and see what we can turn this into." He then started ticking off the list of Travel Channel-related possibilities—VOD, broadband, GPS, mobile, synergies with Cox TV and radio stations and so on. Esser rejected the notion that he may be facing an uphill carriage battle by holding a standalone national programming asset. "If you’re a lone net that doesn’t have a large brand… you can run that risk. Our intent is to create a product that’s highly valued and highly used by consumers on multiple platforms," said Esser, who bolted over to Discovery’s Silver Spring HQ Wed after a press briefing on Mass Ave for NCTA’s upcoming Cable Show. He had a meeting with his soon-to-be new report Travel Channel gm Pat Younge. Esser was clear Thurs that Younge will continue to run the network and that Cox has no plans for major changes. In fact, it intends to keep Travel headquartered in Silver Spring, MD. Between now and the deal’s expected close in mid-May, Cox will work on all the transitional aspects—including where to house staffers, who will handle ad sales, etc. After Liberty’s John Malone created Discovery Holdings 2 years ago, it was long expected that Cox and Advance/Newhouse would roll their stakes into it. But that never came to fruition. The Cox deal finally sets Discovery up to go completely public, providing a transparency that has been missing since Discovery Holdings was created. It also helps Cox pay down the debt incurred from its 2004 privatization. For Discovery’s part, shedding Travel in the deal seems to make some sense as it explores new media opportunities. The travel market is already pretty mature (see Expedia.com, Orbitz, etc), though Cox certainly sees an opportunity. "With these structural changes, we create a more efficient decision-making process that will result in an aggressive media company poised for growth," Discovery pres/CEO David Zaslav said in a statement Thurs. Last month, Zaslav announced a restructuring that will create a "lean and aggressive" organization. Several senior level execs were shown the door, including Discovery Nets US pres Billy Campbell and Discovery Nets Intl pres Dawn McCall.

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