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Nov 13, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Posted Wednesday, Nov. 13

AT&T Comcast wins FCC approval

The Federal Communications Commission voted 3-1 this afternoon to approve the merger of cable TV giants AT&T Broadband and Comcast Corp., with the caveat that AT&T’s major interest in Time Warner Entertainment be placed into an irrevocable trust.

Under the deal, the newly merged company — AT&T Comcast Corp. — was given 51/2 years from the deal’s closing to divest all interests in TWE. During the divestiture period, the companies are also supposed to be barred from any involvement in TWE’s video programming.

Critics have charged that the deal would consolidate too much power into a single entity. But the FCC’s Republican majority said the TWE divestiture plan — which the agency said was proposed by AT&T and Comcast — would ensure that the merger would have no harmful “merger-specific” public interest effects and would create “synergies and efficiencies that could result in cost savings.”

“The benefits of this transaction are considerable, the potential harms negligible,” said FCC Chairman Michael Powell. But Michael Copps, the FCC’s sole Democrat, dissented.

“The sheer economic power created by this mega-combination and the opportunities for abuse that would accompany it outweigh the very limited public interest benefits that the applicants or the majority find here,” Mr. Copps said.

Still, FCC Republicans said the new company, absent TWE’s system interests, would reach 27.02 million subscribers or 28.9 percent of multichannel video homes. With TWE, the company’s penetration would have reached 41 percent of subscriber homes, the FCC said.

Ken Ferree, chief of the FCC’s Media Bureau, said the divestiture would also sever long-standing AT&T interests to Time Warner programming. “On the facts here, this combination solves problems, it does not create them,” Mr. Ferree said.

At deadline, a coalition of watchdog groups led by the Media Access Project said it is appealing the decision. “The merger of the largest and the third-largest cable companies will exacerbate their monopoly power,” MAP said in a statement.

NBC scores Tuesday demo win: NBC scored its highest Tuesday night ratings in adults 18 to 49 since premiere week, thanks to strong performances by “Frasier” and “Dateline,” according to fast national ratings from Nielsen Media Research. “Frasier” dominated its 9 p.m.-to-9:30 p.m. time period with a 6.9 rating and 17 share in adults 18 to 49, 41 percent above Fox’s second-place “24” (5.0/12). “Dateline,” which featured a story on “Today Show” weatherman Al Roker, finished in first place in the demo from 10 p.m. to 11 p.m. with a 5.5 rating/15 share. That was 22 percent ahead of ABC’s second-place “NYPD Blue,” which pulled a 4.5/12. ABC won the first hour of the night among adults 18 to 49 with “8 Simple Rules” and “According to Jim” combining for a 5.2/14 in the demo. NBC won the night in adults 18 to 49 with a 4.9/13, followed by Fox (4.7/12), ABC (4.5/11) and CBS (3.2/8). CBS won the night in households (9.7/15) and total viewers (13.8 million).

Levin joins Clear Channel: Clear Channel Communications Worldwide has named Andrew Levin senior VP of government relations. Mr. Levin, a longtime aide to Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., will head the firm’s new Washington lobbying office.

Brannan joins TechTV: Greg Brannan has been named senior VP of programming of TechTV, effective Dec. 16. Mr. Brannan, who will be based in San Francisco, will report to Joe Gillespie, the channel’s chief operating officer and executive VP.

Mr. Brannan joins TechTV from E! Networks, where most recently he served as executive VP, programming and content.

Bertino, Pratt move up at Weather Channel: At The Weather Channel, Pam Bertino has been promoted to VP and general manager, affiliate sales and TWC Networks, and Tom Pratt has been promoted to VP of programming and product development.

Ms. Bertino was VP and general manager of Weatherscan Local. Mr. Pratt was director of local programming.

In addition, Mardell Artis, who was director of corporate development, was promoted to VP of affiliate operations and strategy.

Mancuso leaves NBC for ABC Family: Linda Mancuso has been named senior VP, head of programming, ABC Family Channel. Ms. Mancuso will oversee all original movies, scripted series, reality programming and specials. She will report to Angela Shapiro, the channel’s president. Joel Andryc will continue to handle alternative programming, including reality, teen and specials, and will report to Ms. Mancuso.

Ms. Mancuso joins ABC Family from NBC, where most recently she served as chief operating officer at Peter Engel Productions/NBC Enterprises.#