London-based US cable operator Telewest is apparently pulling out of the auction of its Flextech TV channels.

According to press reports Telewest has decided to cancel the sale rather than accept a £1 billion-plus (($1.8bn; €1.46bn) offer from Rupert Murdoch's satellite TV monopoly, BSkyB.

Shock, horror? Well not quite. The much-trumpeted disposal of channels, including Living TV, UKTV and Bravo has been surrounded by smoke and mirrors from the outset.

Telewest has never formally announced Flextech was for sale while industry experts, including ITV ceo Charles Allen, have loudly whispered the auction was simply a tactical valuation weapon in merger negotiations with rival cable firm NTL [WAMN: 29-Aug-05].

The potential £6bn union of the two US-owned companies has long been expected, but talks appear to have stalled in recent weeks.

The official Telewest line about the sudden disappearance of Flextech from its shop window is that BSkyB is viewed as a longterm competitor to cable in the fiercely competitive pay-TV market.

Data sourced from; additional content by WARC staff