LEADING NATIONAL CABLE REPS MULLING MERGER: ONE-STOP BUYING FOR LOCAL TIME SEEN IN POTENTIAL NCC, CNI DEAL

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National Cable Communications and Cable Networks Inc., the two major national cable rep firms, are talking merger.

With the two company's total gross billings estimated to be about $350 million, a merger "would be the most pro-Madison Avenue move cable's made in years," said one cable executive. "It would be one-stop shopping for the agencies to buy local cable."

SIMPLIFYING CABLE BUYS

Ad agencies now go through either NCC or CNI to place ads for national clients on local cable TV systems. If the merger is concluded, it would simplify ordering since agencies would only have to deal with a single cable rep to buy time on most cable systems in the country.

NCC is co-owned by four cable TV operators-Time Warner Cable, Cox Cable, MediaOne and Comcast Corp.-and Chancellor Media's Katz Media Group. Each of the cable owners has 12.5% of the company; Katz owns the other 50%.

CNI is owned by Cablevision Systems Corp; Tele-Communications Inc. has a stake in Cablevision.

In the deal being discussed, CNI and TCI would get 12.5% stakes in NCC, with their shares coming out Katz's 50% stake in NCC.

RESPONSIBILITIES CHANGING?

Once the merger is completed, NCC would take over the cable systems now repped by CNI; CNI would rep various local cable news channels owned by the cable operators.

The earliest a deal could be consummated is within 60 to 90 days, said executives familiar with the talks, though they also emphasized that, with so many players involved, the pact may not happen.

Executives from NCC and CNI were traveling to the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau's seminar in Denver late last week and couldn't be reached. Executives at the various cable companies involved in the talks declined comment.

A deal likely would help ad buyers in the nation's biggest market, New York.

CNI used to represent the entire market but, in a recent dispute with Time Warner Cable-the service provider in Manhattan and other areas of the city-it has been replaced by NCC.

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