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Diller, Par reports spark new rumors of NBC sale

Published reports about another Barry Diller-led bid for NBC brought forth a flurry of old and new sale-related rumors, including a scenario under which two nights would be brokered to Paramount Communications.

The conjecture is that NBC might broker Friday and Saturday to Paramount–in essence, selling the time to the studio, which would then program those nights and peddle the ad time.

Such an arrangment would theoretically circumvent the 15-hour cap currently imposed by the FCC in defining a network, which triggers restrictions that don’t apply to Fox Broadcasting Co.

A more far-fetched hypothesis, which circulated in slightly different form nearly a year ago, involves a so-called “Doomsday” formula whereby parent General Electric might parcel off pieces of the network–news, sports, the entertainment division and the facilities–to different parties.

Talk of a sale has persisted

Talk regarding an NBC sale has persisted for at least 18 months, as the web’s declining market share combined with the economic downturn has caused many observers to surmise that GE wanted out of the television business. GE’s much-discussed lack of patience with under-performing units is another factor, especially since NBC has opened the 1992-93 season in third place.

“It’s clearly for sale,” one source said, adding that the value could diminish if the web’s prime time fortunes don’t improve.

Although Paramount has repeatedly been discussed as an NBC suitor, it’s unclear how the studio could buy the network outright without either eviscerating it (by paring back prime time from 22 to 15 hours) or dramatic changes in the financial interest and syndication rules.

As for Diller, the latest talks follow reports of an earlier bid that was dismissed by GE (Daily Variety, July 8).

NBC has consistently declined to discuss sales rumors and Diller has denied that there is any proposal in the works and even close associates are uncertain regarding his plans.

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