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Mar 9, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Match about over for ECW

Extreme Championship Wrestling may be down for the final count. ECW’s scheduled wrestling pay-per-view event for Sunday night was canceled when ECW couldn’t hammer out a deal with PPV distributor InDemand. Sources said ECW couldn’t round up wrestlers or find a place to hold the event. “The company has basically stopped operating,” a former ECW employee said. “I understand ECW may be even going out of business.” ECW, which staged its last PPV event Jan. 13, had been carried by the former Nashville Network until September, when Viacom dropped it after picking up Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Federation.

TW-ABC dispute settled: The FCC last week announced that Time Warner Cable had signed a consent decree agreeing to pay $72,000 to the U.S. Treasury for dropping ABC stations from 96 cable systems during a retransmission consent dispute with the network during the May sweeps last year. An FCC spokesperson said the decree settled the agency’s enforcement case against the cable company.

Westlake exits Universal post: Blair Westlake has elected to step down from his position as chairman of the Universal Television & Networks Group by the early part of April to pursue other interests.

“I appreciate the vote of confidence I have received from our new management during the last several months,” Mr. Westlake said. “After exploring a number of possible positions within the new organization, I have decided that the best decision for my family and me is to pursue new opportunities outside Universal. I would like to acknowledge the professional support and friendship I have received from Edgar Bronfman Jr., Lew Wasserman, Ron Meyer and all of my colleagues over the years. The knowledge, business skills and relationships that I have developed during my career at Universal will be invaluable to me as I move on to new ventures.”

A veteran of almost 20 years at Universal, Mr. Westlake was appointed chairman at Universal Television & Networks Group in December 1997. In that capacity, he was responsible for Universal Studios’ global television activities, including distribution, networks and production. Under his leadership, the Group secured major agreements with such broadcasters as RTL (Germany), TF1 (France), BSkyB (United Kingdom) and Television Espanola (Spain).

Some investors show support for satellite merger: A half-dozen institutional investors have told General Motors and Hughes Electronics management they support the proposed satellite merger with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. as the best way to build long-term shareholder value.

Both sides resume negotiations this week after Hughes asked News Corp. for a new proposal. Instead, News Corp. has been talking to rival EchoStar about being part of a three-way satellite merger involving DirecTV or, at least, increasing News Corp.’s 7 percent state in EchoStar.

News Corp. investor John Malone and Mr. Murdoch are looking for ways to seal the satellite deal, talks about which are far from over, sources say.

The companies involved declined comment.

Analyst says Xbox won’t be moneymaker right off: Microsoft’s long-awaited Xbox, launching into the video-game market this fall, will not be a major profit contributor for at least five years and will cost the company more than $2 billion before breaking even.

Despite promised superior technical specifications and a more “friendly” development environment, Microsoft will have trouble dislodging Sony and even Nintendo since it all comes down to installed base, Merrill Lynch Internet analyst Henry Blodget said on an investor call this week.

On Friday, Mr. Blodget lowered his 2001 earnings estimates for Microsoft in response to warnings from lntel and other information technology companies.

Groups ask IRS to probe Jackson finances: Two conservative groups based in Virginia asked the IRS last week to investigate the finances of the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s organizations, including the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition and Citizenship Education Fund.

The National Legal and Policy Center says Mr. Jackson’s entities “enrich” him, his family and friends in violation of their tax-exempt status. The group accuses Mr. Jackson of routinely threatening to boycott and oppose mergers to extract millions from companies.

For example, Jackson initially criticized the union of CBS and Viacom, but softened his stance after receiving a $377,000 donation from Viacom, the group says, adding he’s now lobbying Viacom to sell its UPN network to a minority associate.

The NLPC says Mr. Jackson stopped opposing the mergers of AT&T-TCI, GTE-Bell Atlantic and SBC-Ameritech after the companies made huge donations to his organizations and/or agreed to spin off properties to minorities, including some friends.

The American Conservative Union says Mr. Jackson misused funds provided by the Democratic National Committee. Mr. Jackson held a briefing last week to deny the allegations. A Rainbow/PUSH source said the reverend has raised concerns about deals, but never opposed any, and changed his views after certain companies responded to his complaints.

Spaet to head USA Cable Sales: USA Networks has just hired former NBC Cable ad sales executive Jon Spaet as president of USA Cable Sales. He replaces Richard Sheingold, who is leaving USA to pursue other interests. Mr. Sheingold had joined USA as president of ad sales just last year.

Mr. Spaet held several positions at NBC Cable, including vice president of ad sales for MSNBC.#