IFE, which has talked previously with NBC and CBS, and News Corp. were to enter into the exclusive period last week, "but there were snags in the deal that they hope can be worked out," the executive said.
The discussions were likely being driven by Tele-Communications Inc., the nation's largest cable operator, which owns a 20% stake of IFE.
WHAT THEY WOULD LOOK FOR
Tim Robertson, president-CEO of IFE, declined to comment about specific talks with any company.
However, Mr. Robertson did outline what IFE would look for if it agreed to partner with another media company.
A programming alliance would be one priority of any deal IFE makes. That could include IFE's Family Channel getting first crack at off-network rights to programming, Mr. Robertson said, as well as some original Family Channel programming ending up on the partner's network.
IFE would also be looking to increase the leverage of its ad sales department, Mr. Robertson said, by having some higher profile programming to sell as well as adding to its advertising clout with a partner.
COMBINING AD SALES
In News Corp.'s case, this could mean somehow combining the ad sales of Family Channel with News Corp.'s cable channels, fX and perhaps the fledgling Fox News.
Other areas Mr. Robertson mentioned included launching additional cable channels and internationally distributing IFE programs and channels, which could be enhanced by the right arrangement.
However, he emphasized, there's no mandate for an IFE partnership.
"First, we don't have to do a deal with anybody. We're doing fine by ourselves," he said. "It's just something we're exploring."
Mr. Robertson also stressed that he personally has no interest in cashing out of the channel: "I'm only 41. I'm sticking around."