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).