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Biz Briefs

Sep 1, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Telephone company BellSouth has announced plans to team up with DirecTV to offer telephone, Internet and video services in a bundled package to BellSouth’s 45 million customers. The plan would form the latest alliance between a telephone company and a satellite operator aiming to beat back the inroads made by the cable industry. As part of the agreement, Atlanta-based BellSouth, starting early next year, will bundle DirecTV’s video service with BellSouth’s product offering, and consolidate the services into a single monthly bill sent out by BellSouth. Initially, new satellite customers will need an antenna installed to pick up the satellite services. However, plans are under way to explore using BellSouth’s fiber optic network, the companies said. The new service will be called BellSouth Answers.
Allen Shopping TechTV Cable Channel
Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen is shopping around his TechTV cable channel, as the network that concentrates on high-tech consumer devices continues to struggle to make a profit and attract audiences, according to a report in Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal. The report said Mr. Allen, through his Vulcan Ventures Inc. investment company, has approached Viacom and Sony Corp. about a possible sale. The channel is worth between $250 million and $300 million, the article said. Mr. Allen paid $320 million for TechTV in 2000, when he bought it from Ziff-Davis. TechTV since May has been trying to figure out a strategy that would keep the channel going. It hired investment bankers Greenbridge Partners to search for investors. A spokesman for Vulcan declined to comment.
IRS Hands $1.5 Billion Bill to Vivendi Universal
Vivendi Universal said last week that the U.S. Internal Revenue Service has informed the French company that it is seeking $1.5 billion in additional taxes plus interest associated with a 1995 stock sale by Seagram of 156 million shares in chemical giant Dupont. Vivendi acquired Seagram in 2000. “Vivendi Universal continues to believe that the tax treatment is fully compliant with U.S. tax laws in force at the time,” the company said in a statement, adding that it will fight the IRS claim in U.S. tax court.
Alliance Atlantis May Spin Off Distribution Unit
Alliance Atlantis Communications, the TV production company that co-produces “CSI” and “CSI: Miami,” is close to spinning off its movie distribution unit into an income trust, according to several press reports. The move, which was first discussed during a conference call Monday by Chief Financial Officer Judson Martin, is a popular strategy of Canadian companies interested in maximizing yields in an environment in which interest rates are falling. The company is expected to take action next week, and could raise more than $350 million to put toward reducing its debt load as part of the spinoff. The movie distribution unit handles Canadian releases of films produced by Walt Disney Co.’s Miramax, AOL Time Warner’s New Line Cinema, Alliance itself, Artisan Entertainment, Focus Features and IFC Films.