Flextech, the TV production wing of red-drenched cable operator Telewest, is fixed in the crosswires of US media giant Viacom.

Telewest, also US-owned but trading only in the UK, is soliciting bids for its subsidiary, whose successful operations make it more desirable as cash in the bank than as a balance sheet item. A sale is expected to realise up to £1 billion ($1.8bn; €1.47bn).

Insiders report that Viacom executives are set to visit Flextech's operations to assess its worth. They will be giving the once-over to a number of Flextech properties, including the Bravo and Living TV channels. But of greatest interest is the company's digital programming capability.

According to one Telewest insider: "It is probably the last chance to really expand programming in the UK. There are a lot of very interested parties and the bidding could end up being quite fierce."

Other reportedly gathering around the bidding table are local broadcasters ITV and BSkyB, plus Bertelsmann's RTL Group, Sparrowhawk (owner of Hallmark TV outside the USA), Discovery Communications; and Time Warner's European unit.

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