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Volume 24 No. 157

Sports Media

     NBC retains an option to buy a "significant minority stake"
in Madison Square Garden as part of the ITT Corp/ Cablevision
Systems acquisition of MSG holdings from Viacom.  NBC signed off
on Cablevision's investment and "could decide as soon as October
whether to join the MSG partnership."   One exec close to the
deal says "NBC's involvement would significantly enhance the
value of MSG to its new owners" and that ITT/Cablevision would
benefit from the experience of NBC Sports.  The joint venture
could also help NBC's portfolio, "especially its flagship TV
station," WNBC-NY.  NBC's stake in MSG could lead to a combined
broadcast and cable TV schedule that would put certain games on
WNBC and others on cable (Joe Mandese, ADVERTISING AGE, 9/12
issue).

     In L.A., Jane Hall reports that all four broadcast networks
are "posting record revenues in terms of advertising dollars
spent" for TV ads in prime time for the new season (L.A. TIMES,
9/13)....Andre Agassi's victory in the men's final in the U.S.
Open "did not galvanize viewers as CBS had hoped."  In
preliminary overnight Nielsen ratings, the Open received a 5.5
rating, down 5% from 5.8 a year ago.  Football was the
"preliminary culprit" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/13)....The 49ers-Chiefs game
was the highest-rated regular-season 49ers telecast in 10 years.
The game had a rating of 38.9 and a 74 share in the Bay Area.  It
was the first regular-season 49ers game on Fox affiliate KTVU
(SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 9/13)....In Atlanta, Kris Jensen notes
that SI's 40th anniversary TV show, scheduled for 10:00pm ET on
NBC, "shows how the magazine is branching into television and
other media."  This special is the first show produced by SI's TV
division (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 9/13)....With less than three
weeks to go before the "crucial shareholder vote" on the Viacom-
Blockbuster merger, execs at Blockbuster Entertainment plan to
"hit the road next week to rally support" for the merger (MIAMI
HERALD, 9/12).

     Time Warner, the nation's second-largest cable company, said
yesterday that it would merge some of its extensive cable systems
with those owned by Newhouse Broadcasting cable systems, which
serves 1.4B subscribers.  In a separate deal, Time Warner will
pay $375M in stock to Summitt Communications to acquire a cable
system in Winston-Salem, NC, and two in suburban Atlanta.  Both
transactions, which Time Warner accomplished without spending any
cash, will increase Time Warner's customer base to 8.9M.  Though
a value wasn't put on the Newhouse transaction, market analysts
estimate the total value at $8.4B (Mark Robichaux, WALL STREET
JOURNAL, 9/13).  Under the deal, Time Warner will "thoroughly
dominate" markets in Charlotte, NC, upstate NY and Orlando, FL
(Paul Farhi, WASHINGTON POST, 9/13).
     BEEFING UP FOR A FIGHT?:  In New York, Geraldine Fabrikant
writes that the venture is a "way to survive the consolidation
sweeping the industry as even the biggest players brace for
expected competition from the regional telephone companies" (N.Y.
TIMES, 9/13).  Time Warner Chair Gerald Levin contended the deal
will improve "growth prospects" not only for cable business and
advertising sales, but also telephone and "future interactive
services" (James Bates, L.A. TIMES, 9/13).  Newhouse President
Robert Miron:  "To be prepared for the future, I need three
things: the size of these geographic clusters, technological
expertise and a sound financial partner.  We got all three in
Time Warner" (WASHINGTON POST, 9/13).