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NBC Sweet-Talks Ops on Olympics

5/14/2000 8:00 PM Eastern

New Orleans-NBC Cable is making a last-ditch pitch to cable operators for its Olympic Games package, and it is reportedly close to completing a deal with holdout Time Warner Cable, several sources said last week.

NBC Cable officials were talking with MSOs here at the National Show about their complex Olympics package, reportedly sweetening the deal in some respects to get the last stragglers to sign up.

Time Warner-which has complained about the cost of the original deal proffered by NBC Cable-is now expected to be the next cable operator to take the Olympics package, which includes retransmission consent for NBC-owned TV stations, according to sources.

NBC Cable president David Zaslav couldn't be reached for comment last week. Time Warner spokesman Mike Luftman said his MSO would like to carry the special Olympics cable coverage, but it was still in negotiations with NBC.

"We continue to be, as we have been, talking," Luftman said. "We're hopeful that we'll have something to announce in the near future, but we're not there yet."

Under the deal, Olympics coverage will air on both MSNBC and CNBC, in addition to the NBC broadcast network. But cable operators have to pay a surcharge for the cable programming.

If NBC does sign a deal with Time Warner, the last remaining major cable operators not on board for the Games cable coverage will be Cable One Inc., Comcast Corp., Cablevision Systems Corp. and the National Cable Television Cooperative.

NBC has already forged Olympics agreements with DirecTV Inc., AT & T Broadband, Cox Communications Inc., Charter Communications Inc., Adelphia Communications Corp. and a number of smaller MSOs.

NBC's original package to operators was an eight- to 10-year deal that included the five Games during that time span; retransmission consent for 13 NBC owned-and-operated TV stations; double-digit rate increases for MSNBC and CNBC; and a $1-per-year, per-subscriber Olympics surcharge during the entire term of the contract.

If Time Warner does an Olympics deal with NBC, it would most likely include long-term retransmission consent for NBC stations in markets such as New York and Los Angeles. This would eliminate retransmission-consent woes for the MSO with at least one broadcaster.

Time Warner still has to forge a retransmission-consent deal with The Walt Disney Co. for its ABC Inc.-owned TV stations, after the operator dropped those broadcast outlets for 39 hours earlier this month.

Time Warner maintained that it didn't have written permission to carry the stations as of a May 1 deadline. Disney contended that it had granted the MSO a 24-day extension.

Also last week, NBC announced that all 437-and-one-half hours of its coverage of the summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia, will be on tape due to the 15-hour time difference between Australia and the East Coast.

MSNBC and CNBC will air about 273 hours of Olympics coverage.

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