US media giant Viacom is said to be talking to UK cable operator Telewest about acquiring some of its TV channels.

American owned Telewest is currently mulling merger with cable rival NTL and may be ready to divest itself of its Flextech unit, which includes the Living TV and Challenge channels. An £800 million ($1.44bn; €1.18bn) price tag could be attached, a deal that would boost Telewest's value ahead of a merger.

Flextech is the UK's second biggest digital-only broadcaster after Rupert Murdoch's Sky Television. Its channels are growing in popularity and it jointly owns UKTV with the state-funded BBC.

Viacom, which is unlikely to be the only bidder for Flextech, owns cable powerhouses MTV and Nickelodeon and has been actively launching new channels around the globe.

Its other holdings include CBS TV and Paramount Pictures. It has also announced it is mulling a split into two separate entities. One company would comprise the cable and movie studio assets while the while other would control broadcast TV and radio units [WAMN: 18-Mar-05].

Telewest provides multichannel TV, telephony and internet services to 1.75 million homes in the UK. It declined to comment on the Viacom talks.

Data sourced from The Times Online (UK); additional content by WARC staff