Canwest bidders weigh options

Corus is eyeing lucrative specialty channels, along with three others bidders including Shaw, Fairfax, and Pattison.

Possible first-round bidders for a potential stake in CanWest Global Communications Corp. remain tight-lipped about their strategy, but it’s not hard to see their ultimate target: 13 profitable specialty channels.

Corus Entertainment, which grew out of media assets first owned by Shaw Communications, is eyeing the former Alliance Atlantis Communications (AAC) channels, especially Food Network, in which it has a 20% stake, and HGTV, to complement its existing stable of female-skewing specialties.

‘Our interest in these (AAC) assets is related to specific specialty assets, and I underscore specific specialty assets,’ Corus CEO John Cassaday told analysts Tuesday as he released his first quarter results.

Astral Media CEO Ian Greenberg also mused openly during a recent analyst call about taking a run at CanWest Global’s 18-specialty channel lineup, indicating ‘it certainly is of interest to us. They certainly strategically fit into our plans.’

Astral had no comment Tuesday on possibly putting up $65 million for a stake in a restructuring Canwest Global. The speculation is making such a move would put rivals like Corus and Astral front-of-line to acquire Canwest Global’s specialty TV unit should senior lenders force a sale,¬ as was done with its Canwest LP publishing group.

Also eyeing HGTV and Food Network is Michael McMillan and Southhill Strategy, his investment vehicle. McMillan retired from Alliance Atlantis after selling the 13 specialty channels to Canwest Global and Goldman Sachs, co-owners of CW Media, in 2007.

Now he may return as a possible Canwest Global suitor with financial backing from Prem Watsa’s Fairfax Financial Holdings, a Canwest Global shareholder that recently acquired a sizable stake in Moses Znaimer’s own radio/TV/print play ZoomerMedia.

The Globe and Mail newspaper earlier reported Corus-parent Shaw Communications and The Jim Pattison Group are in talks with RBC Dominion Securities to possibly make a $65 million investment in Canwest Global.

From Playback Daily