SBD/22/Sports Media

TCI'S LEO HINDERY QUESTIONS ETHICS OF NFL CABLE DEAL

          Cable companies are "outraged" over last week's $17.6B
     NFL TV rights deal, according to Susan Slusser of the S.F.
     CHRONICLE.  And there "have been suggestions among cable
     operators that ABC underpaid ($550 million a year) for
     'Monday Night Football' while sister Disney company ESPN
     overpaid for Sunday-night rights ($600 million) -- so that
     the costs could be dumped onto cable customers."  TCI CEO &
     President Leo Hindery: "I have it on pretty good evidence
     that they moved things from the left pocket to the right
     pocket.  And nobody has proved to me that the Sunday-night
     package should be more expensive than the Monday-night
     package."  A recent trade publication reported "an unnamed
     Disney executive, overheard at a party" as saying, "I called
     the NFL and said, 'Go easy on ABC and sock it to ESPN,
     because we can pass it on.'"  ESPN VP/Sales & Marketing
     George Bodenheimer: "I read that, and it's inaccurate, to
     say the least. ... I don't think anyone puts stock in
     unattributed comments" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 1/22).
          RAISE RATES/DROP SERVICE? Hindery said cable operators
     feel "more and more entitled" to ask questions about the NFL
     deal, "because all we can do about it is drop the service or
     raise the rates."  Slusser: "But what cable operator is
     going to drop ESPN?  It is considered a must have outlet." 
     ESPN's Bodenheimer: "Everyone would like to pay less for
     everything.  But this is a good long-term investment for
     ESPN and for cable operators."  He added ESPN will have more
     NFL programming to create ad opportunities for operators. 
     Slusser adds that operators "might get a bit of a break from
     TNT, which reportedly is considering lowering its cable fees
     now that it no longer has the NFL" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 1/22).

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