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"While Wall Street and industry observers continued to speculate about Ted Turner's pursuit of NBC, a key player appeared to throw cold water on the prospects of such a deal," according to Charles Haddad in this morning's ATLANTA CONSTITUTION. Time Warner Chair Gerald Levin said "he has seen no proposal for merging NBC with Turner Broadcasting." Time Warner is a 20% stockholder in TBS. Meanwhile, Turner Sports' hiring of Mike Pearl, coordinating producer of CBS' last two Olympic broadcasts, "fueled more speculation that Turner, who has been shut out of the 1996 Games in his hometown, is still pursuing [NBC]. Buying NBC would solve two problems for Turner: Getting a national network and becoming involved in the Games of Atlanta" (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 12/15). The board of GE, parent company of NBC, is expected tomorrow to consider Turner's bid to buy a 65% stake in NBC. One unnamed analyst: "There is still a willing seller and a willing buyer, so you have to say a deal is possible. But enormous hurdles need to be crossed first" (John Durie, N.Y. POST, 12/15).
Time Warner Chair Gerald Levin introduced the company's experimental "Full Service Network" -- an interactive cable system on trial in Orlando. The project is the "most grandiose" of the interactive TV trials getting underway across the country, writes Jube Shiver in today's L.A. TIMES. The tests "are aimed at determining what kind of technology is best for delivering interactive services, and what kinds of services consumers are interested in." Levin: "The debut of the full-service network is a turning point for the communications industry. With digital interactivity, consumers are in total control of the programming they bring into their homes" (L.A. TIMES, 12/15). Levin stressed that revenue from movie rentals and advertising will be key to paying for the system (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 12/15). MORE INTERACTIVE NEWS: The MD racing commission gave approval to Laurel and Pimlico race tracks to test the nation's first in-home betting system, with a one-month trial to begin January 15 (WASHINGTON POST, 12/15).