IBM, BELLSOUTH CRIMP MCI AD PLANS FOR GAMES

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MCI Communications Corp. is seeing red over Big Blue. And the telecommunications giant may wind up being an Olympics ambush advertiser even while it remains an authorized sponsor of NBC's telecast.

For about $25 million to $30 million, MCI is splitting the long-distance category with AT&T Corp., an official Centennial Olympic Games partner. However, MCI's desire to run more than long-distance spots has been blocked by IBM Corp. and BellSouth.

NO TO NETWORKING

MCI executives thought IBM would just be running computer hardware ads, say insiders, allowing MCI to sneak in a couple of spots pushing its networking businesses. But IBM claims rights covering software and hardware.

IBM paid at least as much as MCI for its buys on NBC. But unlike MCI, IBM is also a worldwide Olympic sponsor, paying another $40 million to the International Olympic Committee.

MCI approached NBC about running commercials for its new MCI One package, insiders say. MCI One offers consumers myriad services, including paging and cellular packages. But BellSouth has exclusivity for those services.

LOOKING BEYOND AT&T

"In the past, we used to focus exclusively on AT&T as a competitor," said Tim Price, president of MCI Telecommunications. "Now the notion of competition has become a lot more broad."

So MCI may end up running non-long-distance spots on various local NBC affiliates.

Contributing: Kim Cleland.

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