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Sep 7, 2001  •  Post A Comment

AOL Time Warner gives AT&T a solid cable offer

AOL Time Warner has privately made an offer to AT&T Corp. to merge the companies’ cable systems to create a publicly traded stand-alone entity with 25 million subscribers that would be operationally controlled and 40 percent owned by AOL Time Warner.

John Malone, chairman of Liberty Media Corp., revealed the “undisclosed offer,” as he called it, in comments to analysts Friday morning during his company’s annual investors’ conference in New York.

Mr. Malone’s confirmation of a long-suspected AOL Time Warner offer caught all the related parties off guard, including Comcast Corp., whose $58 billion offer for AT&T Broadband, although rejected, was considered the only real buyout offer still on the table.

AOL Time Warner, Comcast and AT&T declined comment on the revelation. The AOL Time Warner offer, which essentially matches Comcast’s offer, throws the bidding for AT&T cable into high gear two weeks before a scheduled AT&T board meeting.

Comcast could be forced to sweeten its stock and cash offer by upping the price or by placing a trading range on its price to ensure AT&T shareholders value in a down market. Comcast also could offer to acquire AT&T’s 25 percent stake in its troubled Time Warner Entertainment partnership and its 36 percent stake in Cablevision. It is believed AOL Time Warner has included both of those moves in its offer to AT&T, which, if accepted, would undergo extensive regulatory scrutiny.

CBS, ABC prime HDTV pump: CBS and ABC upped the high-definition ante Friday with their announcements that they will broadcast all prime-time comedies and dramas for the 2001-02 series in HDTV format.

CBS, which has pushed to lead the HDTV programming pack, is partnering with Panasonic and Zenith Electronics Corp. The network will be averaging 24 hours a week this fall in the HD format, between scripted prime-time series, “The Young and the Restless” in daytime and college football. CBS also broadcasts major sports events, such as the U.S. Open Tennis Championship finals, in HD format.

ABC, which is making the move without partners, will broadcast all theatrical films in the 2001-02 season in HDTV, as well as all scripted series.

The only series NBC is broadcasting in the HD format is “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno.” The network is looking for partners to share the costs of more HD offerings.

MTV honors for Fatboy Slim, ‘Marmalade’: Fatboy Slim’s “Weapon of Choice,” with tour de force dancing by actor Christopher Walken, was the big winner with six Moonmen statuettes at the 2001 MTV Video Music Awards, telecast live Thursday from the Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center in New York City. But “Lady Marmalade,” from the “Moulin Rouge” theatrical soundtrack, sung by Christina Aguilera, Lil’ Kim, Mya and Pink, won the biggest single prize, best video of the year.

The VMAs, the least stuffy of the award shows (now that the Golden Globes have achieved televised respectability), are known as a raucous rock ‘n’ roll lark, and this year was no exception, though the show did include a moving tribute to Aaliyah, the rising young pop diva who died recently in a plane crash.

The 2001 VMAs were replete with the usual edgy japes that earned the censors’ bleeps, the usual daring costumes that earned the audience’s gapes, the usual surprise appearances (Mick Jagger and Michael Jackson) and the customary splashy production numbers from pop’s reigning royalty, including songs from Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez, the Backstreet Boys and ‘N Sync.

Justice wants more time to decide on EEO challenge: In a move that could augur well for equal employment opportunity, the Department of Justice Friday asked the Supreme Court for more time to decide whether to challenge an appeals court decision that struck down the Federal Communications Commission’s EEO regulations earlier this year. A source said that suggests that an appeal is under consideration.

British cable operator testing CRM technology: NTL, a British cable and broadband services operator, is deploying a new technology from WhiteCross Systems that follows telephony and Internet customers’ phone-usage habits. The CRM (customer relationship management) tool can determine when customers make the bulk of their telephone calls. Such data can be used to create special calling plans based on customers’ peak usage, the companies said.

(c) Copyright 2001 by Crain Communications