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News from the interactive TV market. AT&T and Zenith Electronics along with Sun Microsystems and Thomas Consumer Electronics SA are "promising to transform the passive act of watching television." It could give consumers instant access to news headlines, weather, traffic reports, etc. Sun Microsystems and Thomas Consumer Electronics SA introduced Open TV, a operating environment for interactive television through a decoder box. AT&T will have the "AT&T Information Center" that has a special device to connect peoples TV sets to their telephone outlets (Washington Post, 1/6)....Nintendo will no longer "actively" market its original Nintendo Entertainment System (USA TODAY, 1/6).
The work stoppage in the NHL has already "done severe damage" to the league's "long-coveted, five-year, $155M national TV deal with Fox." Whether the season starts at all, the league has "dug itself a deep hole, taking a huge step backward in its quest to maximize desperately needed national TV exposure," according to Bob Raissman in this morning's N.Y. DAILY NEWS. Some Fox affiliates are taking a "wait-and-see" approach. Lou Abitablio, General Sales Manager of NYC's WNYW-TV: "If we have games in April, we still have time to get things together. But we haven't gone out on the street to sell advertising for hockey. We can't until we know what we are selling." The NHL "could have counted on mega-doses of hype on Fox nightly prime-time sked and would have gotten a major shot on the network's NFL telecasts. Now even if the Puck Heads vote to end the lockout, the NFL window is closed." So don't expect a big hockey push during the NFL Championship game on Fox, as Tracy Doglin, Exec VP/Marketing for Fox Sports says: "We haven't shot a thing. There are no promos sitting in my vault ready to come out during the NFC Championship Game." But while Dolgin admits the lost promotional opportunities, he "is still confident of Fox's ability to sell the game, even on short notice." Dolgin: "We bought hockey for the future. ... Hockey is not dead. Our marketing plan, all the things we need to do to make hockey the sports of the 90's is still the same" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 1/6).
Time Warner is close to an agreement with Cablevision Industries, which controls cable systems of about 1.3M subscribers. The company could fetch between $2.5 and $3B. Sources close to the deal said there are still hurdles to overcome, including how Time Warner would finance the deal. If Time Warner completes the deal, it would service over 10M cable subscribers, making it a close second to TCI, Inc., the largest U.S. cable operator (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 1/6).