News Briefs: Liberty Has Designs on DirecTV

Oct 16, 2006  •  Post A Comment

A top Liberty Media executive said Thursday that the company is considering trading its stake in News Corp. for control of DirecTV, a move that would put onetime cable baron John Malone, Liberty’s chairman, at the controls of a satellite TV provider. Speaking at a conference in New York, Greg Maffei, president and chief executive of Liberty, said, “We are saying in the marketplace that we may exchange our roughly $11 billion stake in News Corp. for a controlling stake in DirecTV,” according to Reuters. The possibility of Mr. Malone making a deal with News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch involving DirecTV emerged last month. After Mr. Malone acquired a 20 percent stake in News Corp. in 2004, Mr. Murdoch put in a poison pill provision to prevent Mr. Malone from acquiring more shares and challenging Mr. Murdoch for control of News Corp. Word that Mr. Murdoch was willing to relinquish control of DirecTV was seen by observers as a sign that the Internet had replaced satellite TV as a key to growing his media empire.-JON LAFAYETTE

FCC Eases Way for Cellphone, PDA Broadcasts

The Federal Communications Commission opened the door a little wider Thursday to live video broadcasts to cellphones and personal digital assistants. In a first action on what do with digital spectrum to be freed up in 2009 during the digital transition before it’s completely available, the FCC effectively told Qualcomm and Verizon Wireless that they can start providing services now if Qualcomm can avoid interfering with signals from existing TV stations. Qualcomm’s MediaFLO USA is rolling out a service that will use a frequency for UHF TV channels 54, 55 and 56 to provide up to 20 channels of video along with downloadable video clips starting next year, and Verizon is lined up as the first retail provider. While MediaFLO had been expected to be offered in some markets next year where there are no analog channels in that spectrum, its national availability would have been limited until 2009 in areas where there remain channels. In Thursday’s action, the FCC said Qualcomm can provide the services nationally if it can ensure interference with existing stations is limited. Several other providers are seeking approval to launch similar services.-IRA TEINOWITZ

NBC Planning Late-Night Poker Show

NBC is getting into the late-night poker show business with its new Monday-through-Saturday show “Poker After Dark,” a Las Vegas-based series that features six poker professionals vying for a winner-take-all $120,000 first-place prize. Hosted by former World Poker Tour host Shana Hiatt, “Dark” will debut Jan. 2 at 2:05 a.m. (ET). Each night will feature a look at one table as it develops over the week, culminating with a winner on Friday night. Saturday night’s show-the “director’s cut”-will recap the week’s events with Ms. Hiatt, and that week’s winner will comment and give insight into his or her winning strategy. The Saturday show will air at 1 a.m., following “Saturday Night Live.”-CHRISTOPHER LISOTTA

Schwarzenegger’s `Tonight’ Gig Draws Complaint

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s appearance on NBC’s “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” drew a complaint from gubernatorial opponent Phil Angelides, who petitioned the Federal Communications Commission for equal time on the air. The Angelides for Governor campaign objected to an Oct. 11 appearance on “The Tonight Show” by Gov. Schwarzenegger, Mr. Angelides’ Republican opponent in the November statewide election. Mr. Angelides, a Democrat, says NBC and 11 TV stations in California should provide him with airtime to balance the publicity Gov. Schwarzenegger received. “The FCC has told us that it will move quickly on this complaint, with an answer as early as Monday at 12 noon,” Angelides for Governor staffer Steven Maviglio said in an e-mail Thursday.-CHRISTOPHER LISOTTA