Discovery says it’s not for sale, but the rumors still persist. On the heels of a Washington Post report saying NBC and Discovery Communications considered a potential merger last summer, the two companies broke news of a smaller joint effort in early December. NBC will lease a two-and-a-half to three-hour block on Saturday mornings to Discovery, which will fill the space with kids’ programming over the course of three years, starting in fall 2002. The block will be branded Discovery/NBC. ‘This is not the first partnership we’ve had with Discovery,’ says Scott Sassa, president of nbc West Coast. ‘This is just another step towards us working together,’ he said, and cited previous collaborations for nbc’s Dateline as well as Discovery’s The Crocodile Hunter. When asked about earlier merger talks, Johnathan Rogers, president of Discovery Networks U.S., acknowledged they had occurred but said, ‘Those conversations were concluded this past summer. This is not a precursor to a big deal.’ This was not the first time in the last year Discovery was rumored to be up for sale. As reported in RealScreen in February 2001, an article in the L.A. Times suggested Liberty Media, which owns a 49% stake in Discovery Communications International, was putting the company on the block. Spokespeople from Discovery also denied those earlier rumors. Of the more recent talks, David Leavy, senior VP of communications for Discovery, says the company had talked to ‘a number of other business partners’ along with NBC, but the company is currently ‘not for sale’.