The price tag for Comcast's 15.8 percent share gives A&E a total value of $18 billion to $19 billion. The A&E network's channels include History, Bio, Crime and Investigation, Lifetime, and Military History.
Comcast owns its share of A&E through ownership of NBCUniversal, the news-and-entertainment conglomerate. Comcast had no comment Monday afternoon, and A&E did not respond to a request for a comment.
Marci Ryvicker, a senior analyst with Wells Fargo Securities, said in a research note that "this potential sale is consistent with [Comcast's] strategy," which is to sell assets that it "does not operationally control." The projected price is substantially higher than the $2 billion initially reported by the trade press, she wrote.
The $3 billion in proceeds is expected to remain with NBCUniversal and could be used to help finance new shows to bolster NBC's weak prime-time offerings, make asset purchases, or enact debt reduction.
Comcast acquired a controlling 51 percent interest in NBCUniversal in early 2011 from General Electric. The remaining 49 percent is retained by General Electric.
Comcast runs the Philadelphia-based cable distribution and broadband Internet businesses and NBCUniversal as two separate companies. Comcast has said it will use the profits of NBCUniversal to buy out General Electric over the next seven years. Ryvicker projected that it would take $7 billion to $8 billion to buy out General Electric.
The $3 billion in the A&E sale could make it easier to operate NBCUniversal, which is facing a number of financial issues. Among other projects, it is trying to compete more directly with ESPN through NBC Sports Network.
A&E was formed in 1983 as a new venture, with RCA Cable as one of its original ownership partners. General Electric bought RCA in 1986, which included the A&E stake and NBC.
A&E focused initially on biographies and history and has expanded into reality programming. According to Nielsen, the programmer had three of the 10 highest-rated cable shows for the week of June 25 through July 1: Pawn Stars (No. 2), American Pickers (No. 8), and Storage Wars (No. 9).
Contact Bob Fernandez at 215-854-5897 or email@example.com.