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Microsoft co-founder/Trailblazers owner Paul Allen sold his remaining 548,000 shares of America Online for $72 each, giving him a profit of $28.5M over his original investment. An Allen spokesperson said the sale was on the open market and "unrelated to reports last week that cable giant TCI was interested in acquiring Allen's stake." Allen is looking to build "technological 'syunergy'" among his investments: Microsoft, Ticketmaster, Asymetrix, and Starwave (SEATTLE TIMES, 9/19)....The first installment of Ken Burns' "Baseball" received a 5.1 preliminary Nielsen overnight rating. Part I of his '90 "Civil War" documentary received a 9.0 (N.Y. TIMES, 9/20)....Rupert Murdoch is scheduled to visit the Twin Cities in an effort to convince KSTP-TV to switch from ABC to Fox (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 9/17).
Molson Hockey Night in Canada has announced that starting this season they will double their coverage of Saturday night hockey coverage with two consecutive NHL games. The Saturday night telecasts, co-hosted by Don Cherry, will be broadcast for 26 consecutive weeks by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. CBC GM Peter Kretz declined to divulge projected ad revenues under the new agreement: "I would say that the second game is a nice piece of change for us in what was before basically off-prime programming. It's not only a go; we're out in the marketplace and successfully selling it." Chrysler Canada and General Motors of Canada have joined other advertisers in buying time during second games. Last season's regular Saturday night game attracted an average of 1.4M viewers. Molson owns the production rights of Hockey Night in Canada and is the exclusive beer sponsor (Don Angus, ADVERTISING AGE, 9/19 issue).
Turner Broadcasting and Time Warner are discussing swapping Time Warner's stake in Turner for joint ownership of either TBS, TNT, or the Cartoon Network. Talks have "heated up" in recent weeks, in light of their "growing desire to break free from an increasingly contentious marriage" (Anita Sharpe, WALL STREET JOURNAL, 9/20). GE DENIES INTEREST: GE yesterday denied that it was involved in talks with Time Warner about a possible purchase of the media giant. Despite GE's denial, Time Warner stock closed $1.38 higher on the NYSE, while GE was down $.75. NatWest Securities analyst Nicholas Heymann: "There's a better chance we'll have a World Series this year than GE will buy Time Warner" (REUTERS/WASHINGTON TIMES, 9/20).
Viacom and Blockbuster have settled the lawsuits brought by Blockbuster shareholders in January of this year that challenged the proposed merger. The settlement "opens the door" for a merger by resolving all pending litigation over the planned deal (VARIETY, 9/20). Shareholders of both companies vote on the merger September 29. Paine Webber's Craig Bibb predicts that the merger will be approved at the shareholder meetings (Don Finefrock, MIAMI HERALD, 9/20). VIACOM AND CBS: In an attempt to become the "undisputed multimedia powerhouse," Viacom has become "actively involved" in merger discussions with CBS. One exec close to the negotiations told AD AGE while talks are "certainly happening," they could take some time to conclude due to regulatory and financial details involved: "Viacom can't do anything until they complete their Blockbuster and TCI deals" (Joe Mandese, ADVERTISING AGE, 9/19).