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Aug 6, 2001  •  Post A Comment

EchoStar bids $32 billion for DirecTV

Littleton, Colo.-based EchoStar Communications Corp., the second-biggest player in the North American direct-broadcast-satellite business, has made its long expected second bid for El Segundo, Calif.-based DirecTV, offering more than $32 billion in stock for the Hughes Electronics Corp. unit of General Motors.

Earlier this year, merger talks between EchoStar and DirecTV broke down — reportedly over the issue of ultimate management control of the merged company. The latest bid was unveiled in a public letter to the GM board from Charles Ergen, EchoStar’s chairman and CEO.

The EchoStar bid comes against the backdrop of an existing offer, currently under active consideration by the GM. board, for DirecTV from Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.

If either bid succeeds, it is likely to be met by regulatory and legislative opposition from the cable industry, which sees consolidation in the DBS industry as threatening its own massive investment and future position in the big-stakes race for customers in the competitive, high-tech digital future for such services as video on demand. DBS consolidation is also likely to spur additional consolidation in the cable industry, where deep-pocketed suitors such as Comcast Corp. are already lining up for AT&T Broadband.

Mr. Murdoch, the dominant force in the European and Asian satellite arena, will not only gain instant entry to, but a dominant position in, the lucrative North American satellite marketplace if his company’s bid for DirecTV succeeds. If EcoStar succeeds, the combined company will control approximately 90 percent of the U.S. DBS market.

Currently, DirecTV has approximately 9.8 million subscribers; EchoStar has approximately 6 million subscribers. While many of the particulars of News Corp.’s DirecTV bid are still a matter for speculation, it is generally assumed that New Corp.’s bid, unlike EchoStar’s, has a cash component, and that the recent sale of Fox Family Entertainment, partly owned by News Corp., to The Walt Disney Co. was to raise its cash war chest for the DirecTV deal.

Wallach joins NBC Enterprises: NBC Enterprises has tapped Barry Wallach as executive vice president of the division, where he will oversee all domestic broadcast and cable sales activities, including “Access Hollywood,” “The Other Half” and “Weakest Link” and off-network syndication sales of NBC’s “Providence.”

Mr. Wallach comes to NBC Enterprises from WorldNow, where he served as executive vice president, distribution and marketing. Before that, he worked with NBC Enterprises President Ed Wilson at CBS/Eyemark Entertainment, where he was executive vice president of domestic syndication.

Schauble to co-anchor KNBC-TV newcasts: Chris Schauble will become co-anchor of the weekend morning newscasts on KNBC-TV, Los Angeles. Mr. Schauble joined KNBC in June from CBS-owned KCNC-TV, Denver. Mr. Schauble will co-anchor with Nerissa Witherspoon, who was hired by KNBC earlier this year. They may be the first African American pairing for a morning newscast in the market.

Meteorologist Michaels returns to Boston: Former WHDH-TV, Boston, meteorologist Mish Michaels is returning to Boston to CBS-owned WBZ-TV. Viewers got a surprise when WBZ did not renew the contract of the market’s veteran meteorologist, Bruce Schwoegler, after May sweeps. At that time, the station hired meterologist Melissa Bell from WBTV, Charlotte, N.C. With the addition of Ms. Michaels, a familiar face to Boston viewers, WBZ is now the only station in the market to have four certified meteorologists. Ms. Michaels will continue her current role as co-host of “Atmospheres” and “The Weather Notebook” on The Weather Channel.

Best Buy to offer AT&T Broadband services: Best Buy and AT&T Broadband have agreed to offer broadband services at Best Buy retail stores in AT&T Broadband service areas around the country. Through the agreement, Best Buy customers in AT&T Broadband’s service areas will be able to use in-store, interactive displays to learn more about AT&T Broadband services and check for service availability. Additionally, starting this month, Best Buy shoppers will be able to sign up for AT&T Digital Cable and AT&T@Home, a high-speed cable Internet service.

(c) Copyright 2001 by Crain Communications