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AT&T announced this morning "it is buying cable giant TCI in a stock deal worth $48 billion," according to ABC's Asha Blake on "Good Morning America." Blake: "What's in it for AT&T? The ability to bring local phone service and Internet access to 40 million TCI customers" ("Good Morning America," ABC, 6/24). In DC, Farhi & Mills report that the agreement merges "the nation's largest long-distance phone company and its second-largest cable TV concern." The deal will offer "one-stop shopping to consumers for virtually all electronic services: long-distance and cellular phone calls, cable TV and high-speed Internet access." Farhi & Mills add that "some in Congress already are expressing concern about the deal" (Farhi & Mills, WASHINGTON POST, 6/24). SPORTS INTEREST: TCI jointly owns Fox/Liberty Networks, which includes 22 RSNs reaching about 60 million homes, in a partnership with News Corp. TCI also owns a portion of MSG, the Knicks and NHL Rangers. DAILY VARIETY's Martin Peers calls the deal "highly complicated," but reports that it "only covers the cable systems" and excludes TCI's Liberty programming arm and the TCI Ventures investment arm. TCI Chair John Malone will reportedly retain control of Liberty Media, "an important point for Hollywood players like USA Networks Chair Barry Diller and News Corp. Chair Rupert Murdoch, "who are in business with Malone through Liberty" (DAILY VARIETY, 6/24). USA TODAY's Rosenbush, Maney & Lieberman report that AT&T is "expected to spin off" Liberty Media and that Malone is "expected to leave the AT&T-TCI fold and run Liberty and TCI Ventures" (USA TODAY, 6/24). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Leslie Cauley reports that "local business appears to be one of the most attractive angles for AT&T," although it will "maintain an alliance" with TCI's programming arm (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 6/24).
Fox Sports Southwest (FSSW) "threatened to pull the plug on" Marcus Cable's broadcast of last night's Rangers- D'Backs game "because of a contract dispute," according to Mark Couch of the FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM. FSSW had "yanked the game" from Marcus' lineup late in the day "because Marcus wouldn't sign a new contract" to carry FSSW's programming. Marcus, the largest cable provider in Tarrant County, TX, ran a blue screen apologizing to its customers, and continued to run the apology even after FSSW reinstated the game. The game was back on the air at about 8:30pm local time, right around the first pitch. Marcus' deal expired in December, and it has been paying expired rates for Rangers games. FSSW VP & GM Jon Heidtke: "There comes a certain point where you can't continue to offer that unfair advantage to them." Marcus Cable COO Lou Borrelli: "Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that they would use our customers as a bargaining chip." Rangers VP/Media Relations John Blake said the dispute was between FSSW and Marcus: "We have nothing to do with it" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 6/24). Heidtke said that after the game returned, "Negotiations picked up. ... We hope they are concluded without any additional interruption" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 6/24).
RATINGS: Phillies TV ratings on WPHL-WB "have jumped" 43%, from an average of 3.0 in '97, to a 4.3 this season. Comcast SportsNet's Phillies games are averaging a 2.3, up 60% from what PRISM averaged this time in '97 (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 6/24)....TNT, "boosted by a few highly watched NBA playoff games," ended '98's second-quarter as the most- watched cable network in prime time, according to Nielsen figures. The net averaged 1,717,000 homes, followed by Nickelodeon, TBS and Lifetime (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 6/24). NOTES: To celebrate the 50th anniversary of its Indianapolis affil WRTV, ABC is allowing the station to broadcast the Brickyard 400 live for the first time on August 1. Races held at Indianapolis Motor Speedway are generally blacked out in the local market, so as not to affect ticket sales (INDIANAPOLIS STAR-NEWS, 6/24)....CBS Sports reached a two-year extension with the PBA to broadcast 10 Tour events in '99 and 2000. The events will be broadcast in an hour-long format, and are a joint venture between CBS Sports, the PBA and The Marquee Group (CBS Sports)....Raycom Sports will produce and televise two AVP tournaments in August. Both events will be regionally syndicated (Raycom Sports)....The NBA and WNBA reached new deals with DIRECTV and Primestar to distribute "NBA League Pass" and "WNBA Season Pass" subscription service (NBA).