Media hub centers on AT&T Broadband

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Tell me, O Muse, of corporate media ownership run wild from mergers and acquisitions." This might have served as the ancient Greek poet's prologue to the modern media scene. To brave the trails of equity ownership seemingly requires the mettle of no less than that of epic hero Odysseus, or an investment banker.

On the media trail that connects 17 of the top 30 companies, our hero lights out at Viacom moving to Time Warner Entertainment by way of their Comedy Central joint venture. Then, via 64.8%-owned Advance/Newhouse TWE Cable to Advance Publications, 33.3%-owner of A/N-TWE Cable, and then Liberty Media by way of its 49.3% interest in Discovery Communications, a 24.7% subsidiary of Advance.

The media traveler is careful to ply but once the straits of Liberty Media, the Charybdis of media holdings that swallows much in its path. There, he is caught up in a dizzying storm: Liberty owns 10% of E!, owned 39.6% by Comcast, whose 54.7%-owned Golf Channel is held 10% by Tribune Co., whose 29% interest in Food Network allows passage to E.W. Scripps, where he stays to convalesce under Calypso's careful watch.

The media traveler traces his journey through Tribune to TWE via their shared interest in WB Network. AT&T Broadband's 25% ownership of TWE allows passage to the AT&T 23.8%-owned subsidiary Excite@Home, also owned 7.3% by Cox Communications, a 67.4% subsidiary of Cox Enterprises. Excite is also held 5.2% by Cablevision, which has 74% of Rainbow Media Holdings.

Rainbow shares ownership of Regional Programming Partners with Fox Sports Networks, wholly owned by Fox Entertainment Group, an 82.8% subsidiary of News Corp. Rainbow is also 26%-owned by NBC, which has a 25% stake in A&E, 37.5%-owned by Hearst, whose SmartMoney is a joint venture with Dow Jones & Co. A&E in turn is held 37.5% by ABC, a Walt Disney Co. subsidiary.

Tired, head spinning, our media traveler sees a vision of this network of companies melted into one. This fevered reduction nears closer to reality each day. The top 30's collective revenue of $125 billion comprises nearly 80% of the Top 100. Revenue of the top five is nearly three times that of the bottom 50 combined.

After adding in the revenue of Top 100 companies with ties to the top 30, the remaining unconnected 55 account for only 16.2% of the total. Fortunately, our media traveler is blind to further ties in non-media holdings, voting interests, board cross-memberships and Internet investments.

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