The front-runner in the auction for Flextech, the television content arm of UK cable operator Telewest, appears to be Rupert Murdoch's satellite group, BSkyB.

Others still in the race are thought to include Germany's RTL Group, owner of UK commercial channel Five, and US cable broadcaster Discovery Networks. Bidders such as the UK's biggest commercial broadcaster, ITV, and private equity groups have failed to make it through to the next round.

Flextech is on offer ahead of Telewest's £5.5 billion ($9.91bn; €8.12bn) merger with its nominal cable rival NTL. There has been speculation, however, that the bidding, which could net around £1bn for Telewest, may simply be a tactical weapon in its negotiations with its future partner.

Flextech, which operates Living TV and Bravo channels and owns UKTV in a joint venture with the state-funded broadcaster, the BBC, is an attractive option for BSkyB, offering it more channels to control.

However, the BBC will feature strongly in any Flextech sale. A change of control clause gives the broadcaster the right to acquire the other half of UKTV. The BBC says it needs a partner with whom it can work long-term.

Data sourced from Financial Times online; additional content by WARC staff