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Cablevision Systems has put its Rainbow Media programming arm up for sale, and several companies who are likely buyers are being courted for the cable network unit, the New York Times reported Tuesday.

To be considered, USA Networks, Liberty Media, General Electric's NBC unit and Comcast have been told they must submit bids by Jan. 16, the newspaper said, citing executives close to the situation.

After news of the impdending sale, UBS Warburg analyst Thomas Eagan cut his rating on cable television and sports team owner Cablevision to buy from strong buy. The analyst says he downgraded Cablevision shares because, in his view, the value of a Rainbow sale or spin-off is already reflected in the stock price. In addition, he sees "few near-term catalysts" once the deal is done.

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