Disney disinterested in AT&T cable unit

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Put Disney at the bottom of the list of would-be buyers (or partners in an acquisition) of AT&T's cable MSO AT&T Broadband.

Disney president Bob Iger said it was "unlikely" that the company would invest in the MSO, the target of an unsolicited takeover by rival MSO Comcast. Iger was also somewhat circumspect in his comments about the pending deal to acquire the Fox Family Channel. When asked specifically about the status of the deal he replied, "we have seen some impact from the events of September 11th on our ad supported businesses and may continue to. That would include impact on the Fox Family Channel.

We will monitor that very carefully in the weeks ahead. If all the terms and conditions of the deal as negotiated are met we will proceed with the closing." Iger's remarks came at the Goldman Sachs Communicopia conference in New York Wednesday morning. In a brief follow-up session with reporters afterward, Iger declined to elaborate on his earlier remarks concerning the Fox Family deal.

When the deal was announced in July, Iger and other Disney executives expressed great enthusiasm for the deal and talked at length about the program repurposing and cross-promotion opportunities the channel would provide as part of the Disney portfolio of TV networks.

After the session, a Disney spokesman said the company still believes the acquisition is a "good idea," and that barring any unforeseen circumstances (like terms and conditions not being met, or certain international regulatory approvals not being granted) the deal could close in November.

Unlike Viacom and News Corp., Disney has not disclosed the financial losses incurred from lost advertising and the extra costs of news coverage after the terrorist attack. But Iger did say that ABC provided 91 hours of uninterrupted news coverage, but that 90% of the advertising that was pulled out of the network's third quarter (when the attack occurred) has been reassigned to the fourth quarter by advertisers.

"And we had room for it," he said. "It wasn't displacing other potential sales." And while he's not terribly bullish about the outlook for this year's network scatter market, he did say that ABC is currently getting scatter prices "at or above" upfront prices.

The broader outlook: "Softness continuing well into 2002 with no visible signs of a recovery."
- Steve McClellan

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