International Pay TV Leaders Exit


Two of the international pay television
industry's highest-profile veterans stepped down from their posts last week, as the
companies that they headed shift their operating strategies.

The departures of David Evans from the post
of president and CEO of Tele-Communications International Inc. (TINTA), and of George
Stein, Hallmark Entertainment Network's president and CEO, could foreshadow some of
those changes.

Evans' exit may signal a move, already
in progress domestically, that would see TINTA's programming and operations assets
under separate management.

While Evans, who joined TINTA in 1997,
declined to speculate on the direction that the company will take after his departure, he
indicated that he would have likely had a diminished role if he had stayed on.

Last year, Liberty Media Group acquired the
17 percent of TINTA's shares that were publicly traded. TCI Ventures Group owns the
remainder. That came amid AT&T Corp.'s pending $48 billion acquisition of
Tele-Communications Inc.

As a result of the acquisition by AT&T,
TCI's U.S. systems and programming assets will be operated separately. Systems will
fall under the AT&T Consumer Services Co. unit, along with some of AT&T's own
telephony operations. Programming will come under the Liberty unit.

The international assets are expected to
eventually be split between the two companies, as well.

For now, TINTA's holdings have been
folded into Liberty. And because of that, Evans said, his role would have been reduced.

“We looked at ways and means of me
doing other things with the company, but it became obvious after a few weeks had gone by
that my background is very much television management. And I was hired at TINTA to take it
in a programming direction,” he said, noting that his departure was amicable.

“The more I looked at it all, there
just didn't seem to be a role that would work well for me,” he added.

Evans joined the company in 1997 from News
Corp., as TINTA was embarking on a move to become a more programming-focused company while
scaling back its systems holdings. It made some significant moves in that direction, most
notably in Latin America.

Liberty declined to comment on the future
of TINTA's assets. A spokeswoman said a replacement for Evans is likely, and one
could be named “fairly soon.” She added that Evans' exit is not related to
any significant changes at Liberty.

Evans did say that prior to his departure,
the company was still reviewing its international assets. He declined to speculate on what
that could lead to now that he's no longer heading the company.

That evaluation comes as the
telecommunications industry places increased value on international cable operations
— most notably in Europe — that have the potential capacity to provide telephony
and interactive services, such as Internet access.

“Cable operations around the globe are
either going to morph into telecom companies by themselves, or get bought by telecom
companies,” said Lou Kerner, an analyst with Goldman Sachs & Co., adding that
AT&T could see some significant value in the international operations.

Evans dropped no word of any new positions
on his horizons, but one source noted that he is close to senior Hallmark Entertainment
management, and that there was talk of him possibly taking Stein's place. Evans
wouldn't comment on that speculation.

While Stein couldn't be reached for
comment, HEN vice president of marketing Jodie McAffee said Stein left the company because
“his work here was done. George likes to start and create things.”

Stein, a 28-year pay TV veteran, launched
HEN in 1995 and built its distribution to almost 12 million subscribers in 50 markets.
Over his career, he was involved in the launches of almost 20 other channels, most
recently helping to establish Liberty's Encore Media Group unit.

Now, however, HEN's task is to “manage
the growth. We've gone through that hectic entrepreneurial stage,” McAffee said.

Still, Evans' extensive background in
operations would go along with at least one recent executive appointment at HEN. Last
year, the company named Russ Givens to the post of executive vice president and chief
operating officer, luring him from his position as president of MediaOne International's
European cable/telephony operations.

“When you're in a position such
as we are, who better to come in and give you an education than someone” from the
operations side, McAffee said.