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).