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Diller says he's still shopping - Broadcasting & Cable

Diller says he's still shopping

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Barry Diller said he is still shopping for major media assets, but he just
won't say which.

He did say he supports the Federal Communications Commission's one-to-a-customer rule on major
network ownership, and United Paramount Network has the worst name and logo around.

Speaking at the American Association of Advertising Agencies' Media Conference in Orlando, Fla., Thursday morning, Diller
said he agreed to the merger of USA Networks Inc.'s TV assets with those of Vivendi Universal S.A. because
neither by itself had sufficient scale to compete with the 'tier-one' media
companies -- AOL Time Warner Inc., The Walt Disney Co., Viacom Inc. and News Corp.

'Our ambition is to get into that field of consolidation as a tier-one
company,' he added. 'We now have enough assets to get the next asset.'

Asked by reporters if that asset might be NBC, Diller -- who will head the
Vivendi-USA joint venture -- turned coy.

'You don't need it; you would like to have it,' he said. 'Don't think
necessarily that the only road is one of the four broadcast networks. There may
be other ways to get there.'

Pressed on the question, Diller said, 'I probably need a broadcast
relationship.'

Asked about the health of the broadcast-network business, he quipped, 'Sell
me one and we can find out.'

Providing another clue to his strategy, he said he did not think the
government should allow one company to own more than one of the four major
broadcast networks.

There is such a thing as 'reasonable regulation,' he added.

Plus, he said, CBS already has its hands full with UPN, a minor network.

UPN has the 'worst name and worst logo,' he said. 'They will probably rebrand
it.'

Diller -- whose USA portfolio includes USA Network and Sci Fi Channel -- said the
cable-network business remains strong because of its dual revenue
streams: advertising and license fees from cable operators.

But, he warned, margins will slowly shrink because of programming costs,
which are rising 'at a really extreme rate.'

And, he said, there was nothing broadcast or cable networks could do about
programming costs, citing NBC's $6 million-per-episode deal to renew
Friends for one more TV season.

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