Bethesda-based Discovery Channel is buying cable's Learning Channel


The Discovery Channel, a Bethesda-based cable network company, has agreed to buy the Learning Channel for an undisclosed amount, the two companies said yesterday.

The purchase would combine two of the largest educational cable television networks in the country, bringing together such diverse programming as "The Incredibly Strange Film Show" and "Quarks: A Christmas Lecture" under a single owner.

"As the Discovery Channel enlightens viewers, the Learning Channel has the potential to empower viewers to better their lives," John Hendricks, chairman and chief executive of Discovery, said in a statement.

"We are developing a plan to dramatically strengthen the programming of the Learning Channel. Discovery brings both the financial assets and commitment to ensure that the valuable promise of the Learning Channel's name will be fully realized."

Privately owned Discovery, started in June 1985, reaches 54 million homes nationwide, the company said. It offers programs that include interviews and documentaries on nature, science and technology, history and people.

The Learning Channel, an 11-year-old, privately held company in Rosslyn, Va., is available in more than 20 million homes with a 24-hour mix of programs that include college courses and golf tips. The company is owned by Financial News Network Inc., Infotechnology Inc., management and employees of the company, and American Community Service Network, a non-profit organization.

The purchase price was not announced, but the two companies that own a combined 51 percent of the Learning Channel -- Financial News Network and Infotechnology -- said yesterday that they would share $12.75 million from the sale. However, a company spokeswoman, Amber Gordon, said that amount was not necessarily 51 percent of the sale price.

New York-based Infotechnology also owns 46 percent of Financial News Network.

Ms. Gordon said the sale of the Learning Channel, which is expected to close by the end of April, was part of a plan by financially ailing Financial News Network to find a buyer for itself.

The 24-hour business news network announced earlier this week that it had agreed to sell most of its business assets to Group W Satellite Communications and Dow Jones & Co.

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