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NBC retains an option to buy a "significant minority stake" in Madison Square Garden as part of the ITT Corp/ Cablevision Systems acquisition of MSG holdings from Viacom. NBC signed off on Cablevision's investment and "could decide as soon as October whether to join the MSG partnership." One exec close to the deal says "NBC's involvement would significantly enhance the value of MSG to its new owners" and that ITT/Cablevision would benefit from the experience of NBC Sports. The joint venture could also help NBC's portfolio, "especially its flagship TV station," WNBC-NY. NBC's stake in MSG could lead to a combined broadcast and cable TV schedule that would put certain games on WNBC and others on cable (Joe Mandese, ADVERTISING AGE, 9/12 issue).
In L.A., Jane Hall reports that all four broadcast networks are "posting record revenues in terms of advertising dollars spent" for TV ads in prime time for the new season (L.A. TIMES, 9/13)....Andre Agassi's victory in the men's final in the U.S. Open "did not galvanize viewers as CBS had hoped." In preliminary overnight Nielsen ratings, the Open received a 5.5 rating, down 5% from 5.8 a year ago. Football was the "preliminary culprit" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/13)....The 49ers-Chiefs game was the highest-rated regular-season 49ers telecast in 10 years. The game had a rating of 38.9 and a 74 share in the Bay Area. It was the first regular-season 49ers game on Fox affiliate KTVU (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 9/13)....In Atlanta, Kris Jensen notes that SI's 40th anniversary TV show, scheduled for 10:00pm ET on NBC, "shows how the magazine is branching into television and other media." This special is the first show produced by SI's TV division (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 9/13)....With less than three weeks to go before the "crucial shareholder vote" on the Viacom- Blockbuster merger, execs at Blockbuster Entertainment plan to "hit the road next week to rally support" for the merger (MIAMI HERALD, 9/12).
Time Warner, the nation's second-largest cable company, said yesterday that it would merge some of its extensive cable systems with those owned by Newhouse Broadcasting cable systems, which serves 1.4B subscribers. In a separate deal, Time Warner will pay $375M in stock to Summitt Communications to acquire a cable system in Winston-Salem, NC, and two in suburban Atlanta. Both transactions, which Time Warner accomplished without spending any cash, will increase Time Warner's customer base to 8.9M. Though a value wasn't put on the Newhouse transaction, market analysts estimate the total value at $8.4B (Mark Robichaux, WALL STREET JOURNAL, 9/13). Under the deal, Time Warner will "thoroughly dominate" markets in Charlotte, NC, upstate NY and Orlando, FL (Paul Farhi, WASHINGTON POST, 9/13). BEEFING UP FOR A FIGHT?: In New York, Geraldine Fabrikant writes that the venture is a "way to survive the consolidation sweeping the industry as even the biggest players brace for expected competition from the regional telephone companies" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/13). Time Warner Chair Gerald Levin contended the deal will improve "growth prospects" not only for cable business and advertising sales, but also telephone and "future interactive services" (James Bates, L.A. TIMES, 9/13). Newhouse President Robert Miron: "To be prepared for the future, I need three things: the size of these geographic clusters, technological expertise and a sound financial partner. We got all three in Time Warner" (WASHINGTON POST, 9/13).