Conflicting reports over the weekend give a muddied picture
on the status of talks between GE and Disney over NBC. The L.A.
TIMES reports that talks had ended while the N.Y. TIMES reports
only that talks "have cooled." The stumbling block in either
case seems to be Disney's desire to buy all of NBC -- the
network, seven O&O's and cable interests, including CNBC. GE has
apparently decided "that it would prefer to continue owning a
majority of NBC," making only 49% available. Geraldine Fabrikant
speculates that after weeks of negotiations, the parties may be
taking "tough stances and then letting the news media know simply
as a bargaining tactic" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/26). But in Burbank,
Richard Turner writes Disney was "institutionally and
strategically unwilling to accept a minority partnership" (WALL
STREET JOURNAL, 9/26). Among other NBC suitors, the N.Y. TIMES
reports that ITT has "lost its ardor" for the network. And at
Time Warner, several execs close to the company indicate that the
NBC deal "does not appeal to all of the company's top management"
(N.Y. TIMES, 9/26). But the WALL STREET JOUNRAL notes that talks
between Time Warner and GE are proceeding (WALL STREET JOURNAL,
OTHER PLAYERS: On Friday, TCI Chair John Malone was in New
York to meet with GE's Jack Welch. One source believes Malone
could have been trying to broker a deal that would bring Turner
into the fold (N.Y. TIMES, 9/26). Others that could get into the
network game include Sony Corp. and Matsushita Electric
Industrial (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 9/26).
REVIEWING THE SALES: On "Wall Street Week," Smith Barney
media analyst John Reidy discussed the renewed interest in the
networks. With regard to the rumored negotiations to sell CBS,
Reidy reiterated that CBS President Lawrence Tisch says that "he
isn't interested" in selling CBS, although "there are some signs
that he might be willing to take some partners." Reidy concluded
that CBS "may well remain independent for some time" and
suggested [Barry] Diller could return to CBS" (PBS, 9/25).
CBS BIDS FOR WOMEN ON SUNDAYS: Starting yesterday, CBS
began filling Sunday afternoons with adaptions of one of the most
"durable forms of female-oriented entertainment, Harlequin
romance novels." For the duration of the football season, CBS
will show four romance movies, five movies produced "under the
auspices of Hallmark Cards Inc.," and then round out the season
with figure skating. CBS execs acknowledge the direct appeal for
female viewers (Bill Carter, N.Y. TIMES, 9/26).
After beating Lennox Lewis for the WBC Heavyweight
championship, Oliver McCall told HBO's Larry Merchant and HBO
viewers they will be able to see him fight again on Showtime.
"Naturally, promoter Don King, who does all of his fights with
Showtime, was grinning broadly at McCall's side" (Prentis Rogers,
ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 9/26). Promoter Ernie Terrell said it was
unlikely that Chicago-native McCall would fight his next title
defense in Chicago. The reason: fight promoters do not like to
black out the Chicago area because of its TV market size (Terry
Armour, CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 9/26).....In Baltimore, Milton Kent
writes that ESPN's presence at the O.J. Simpson trial "distorts
and trivializes the criminal justice system" (Baltimore SUN,
9/26)....CNN is launching a CD-ROM package on the O.J. Simpson
hearings at a cost of about $19. It is designed to "live through
the ages; it's a quickie project intended to capitalize on a
breaking news story that doesn't justify" the $40-50 for most CD-
ROMs (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 9/26).