With the NHL considering a postponement of the season, the
AP reports that ESPN may try to replace its NHL coverage with AHL
minor league hockey, at least for a while. The substitute for
this Saturday's Rangers-Devils telecast would be Binghamton and
Syracuse (AP/WASHINGTON POST, 9/27).
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A federal antitrust probe of the cable TV home-shopping
business will force Comcast and TCI to extend the expiration date
for their offer to buy shares of QVC to October 21 (USA TODAY,
9/22)....Of cable TV's top 10 shows for week of September 5-11,
five were sports programming, including the top-rated Ginats-
Cardinals NFL game on TNT (MULTICHANNEL NEWS, 9/19)....Viacom
announced it will offer SportSouth, which carries Braves games,
to all of its cable customers in the Nashville area (Nashville
Former Bruins player, coach and assistant GM Mike Milbury
has been hired as a studio analyst by ESPN for NHL broadcasts.
He will also work on "The Deuce" (HARTFORD COURANT,
9/27)....Marcus Allen, who gets a week off since the Chiefs have
a bye week, will do color for Fox's coverage of the Lions-Bucs
game this Sunday. The Chiefs do not play either team this year
(Michael Hiestand, USA TODAY, 9/27). ....Phil Simms will stay in
the studio as an ESPN analyst after deciding not to sign with the
Cardinals (mult., 9/27).
Negotiations are "intensifying between" Disney and GE over
Disney's possible acquisition of NBC. Disney Chair Michael
Eisner was in New York yesterday for further talks, "with the
major stumbling block still being price." One possibility that
has been discussed would have Disney paying "primarily in cash,
with another component being a new issue of convertible preferred
stock." That price range is said to be between $4-5B. GE is
said to be carrying NBC on its books at a value of $4.2B.
Although Time Warner also has been in discussions about NBC -- in
this case, a 49% stake -- "many analysts and observers have
become more skeptical of that plan" (Richard Turner, WALL STREET
NBC, in a filing with federal regulators, "contended that
Fox Television Stations Inc. is trying to sidestep federal limits
on the number" of TV stations a single company may own. NBC
asked the FCC to stop the transfer of an NBC affiliate in Green
Bay to SF Broadcasting of Green Bay LLC, a venture of News
Corp.'s Fox and movie distributor Savoy Pictures Entertainment
Inc. NBC suggested that the FCC require more information on SF
Broadcasting's capital structure. Under the Fox-Savoy venture,
the Green Bay station is listed as being owned by a corporation
held by the two Savoy principals, Victor Kaufman and Lewis
Korman. Although the two own just 1% stake in the station, they
hold all the voting control. Savoy holds a 74% stake and Fox
owns 25% (Carnevale & Jensen, WALL STREET JOURNAL, 9/27). NBC
contends that recent moves by Rupert Murdoch to acquire Fox
affiliates "amount to an effort to get around federal limitations
on the number of stations that one network can own." The NAACP
has already asked the FCC to examine the foreign ownership of Fox
because of News Corp.'s financing of the initial Fox purchase
(Bill Carter, N.Y. TIMES, 9/27).
Sports Illustrated Television (SITV) is "close to making a
couple of big plays" in the upcoming months. SITV President Ted
Shaker said that while the unit has produced several successful
programs in recent months, SITV is continuing to expand: "We want
to be as ubiquitous as we can be. We've got positions on two of
the four networks, soon to be three of four." While Shaker did
not identify the third network, it has been speculated that SITV
will produce a Sports Illustrated for Kids program to be seen on
Fox. SITV has produced programs previously with both ABC and NBC
(Joe Mandese, ADVERTISING AGE, 9/27).
With Disney out of running to buy NBC from GE, speculation
is now focused on Ted Turner. In New York, Geraldine Fabrikant
notes that although Turner "has not publicly acknowledged
interest in acquiring NBC," the TV industry "has begun assuming
that he would like to buy the network." But industry experts say
Turner would encounter "regulatory and financial obstacles in
trying to complete such an acquisition." One NBC exec said that
GE and NBC considered Turner's "ambitions so unrealistic that
they did not take him to be a serious bidder." Turner
Broadcasting's fate is "entwined" with its two major
shareholders, TCI and Time Warner. Time Warner could not buy NBC
without "major cross-ownership issues arising." One person
familiar with talks between Turner Broadcasting and its investors
said that "contrary to published reports," Time Warner has not
given Ted Turner the green light to explore a bid for NBC.
Turner could not bid for NBC without Time Warner's support, and
that would not likely happen until Time Warner itself gave up
interest in NBC (N.Y. TIMES, 9/27).
TCI'S HELP: In New York, John Durie notes that TCI Chair
John Malone met with GE's Jack Welch to let him know that he
supported Turner's bid for NBC. Durie adds, "Forget the reports
that Disney backed out of the NBC deal because Welch changed his
mind and now only wants to sell half the asset. The facts of the
matter are that Disney wasn't putting up enough money" (N.Y.
WHAT NOW? CBS and Cap Cities/ABC stocks rallied Monday on
reports Disney had pulled out of the NC chase (USA TODAY, 9/27).
According to analysts, Disney may now focus on CBS or ABC
("Nightly Business Report," PBS, 9/26).