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The BBC is planning to launch its 24-hour satellite news service, BBC World, in the U.S. in February. Former CNN President Reese Schonfeld's International News Network is a partner with the BBC in the new venture. BBC World would include international sports news in its 24-hour "news wheel" (Mult., 12/21)....AT&T is ready to join the on-line services market with its apparent victory in the battle to purchase Ziff Communications Co.'s Interchange Online Network....Fox Broadcasting has solicited the opinions of several former FCC officials "to help convince the FCC that it complied with rules limiting foreign ownership of TV stations to 25%" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 12/21)....WASHINGTON POST TV critic Tom Shales gives Direct Broadcast Satellite a a glowing review: "Clearly, this is the greatest new toy since the VCR, with pictures so sharp and rich that it's as if a veil were lifted from in front of the screen. Cable cannot compare. We keep hearing about the '500- channel universe' just around the corner, but it looks like an enormous corner. The 150-channel universe is here now, and it's a hoot" (WASHINGTON POST, 12/21).
TCI, Inc. and Time Warner are discussing a joint venture to "launch a group of cable sports networks," according to this morning's WALL STREET JOURNAL. Sources close to both companies said the deal would include five new sports cable channels, including one with Time Warner's Sports Illustrated magazine, a women's sports channel, and other channels that would air local sports news. The channels would "be bundled in a so-called tier and would not be part of basic cable TV service." TCI and Time Warner control 18M of the nation's 60M cable homes, and both companies stand to gain from a partnership. Time Warner does not have a large sports programming center, and TCI "could use Time Warner's subscribers and its Sports Illustrated franchise to help boost its own sports presence on a national level." TCI's Liberty Media already has a wide array of regional sports ventures, and owns or has an interest in 14 regional sports networks, most of which "would not be included in any deal with Time Warner." Liberty may also invest in the Classic Sports Network that is set to start next year. Classic Sports is backed by New York investment bank, Allen & Co., and AT&T, and could be "folded into a joint venture with Time Warner." Finally, a TCI- Time Warner partnership would allow the companies to share the risks in launching a sports network in a crowded field, dominated by ABC/Capital Cities' ESPN and ESPN2 (John Lippman, WALL STREET JOURNAL, 12/21).