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Top 10 Yellow Pages companies (chart) Top media companies by category (chart) CABLE GAINS CLEAR IN CURRENT PUZZLE OF MEDIA OUTLETS

By Published on .

In an industry becoming so sophisticated that new media venues are hard to recognize without a scorecard, Comcast Corp. ironically picks a puzzle to illustrate this diversity in its annual report.

It's appropriate to visualize this confusing new world order.

Perforated into the gatefold of the report are cardboard punch-outs representing various disciplines populating the media kaleidoscope-cable, cellular, computers, programming, telephones and, to show scope, international. They fit nicely together.

But where's print?

Well, Comcast this year acquired GuestInformant, a hard-cover magazine for hotel guests previously owned by LIN Broadcasting. Print, media's granddad, may get its puzzle piece next year.

Print, specifically newspapers, still leads all media revenue generators among the nation's 100 Leading Media Companies, according to Advertising Age's 15th annual report on the industry's top operations.

Newspapers captured $24.2 billion in revenue in 1993 from the list's 44 companies with newspaper properties, up 4.4%. But despite its size, the medium is stuck playing character roles to the cable ingenue in the media drama.

Ever-surging cable was led by Time Warner, No. 1 on the chart at $5.7 billion in revenue from media, 64% of it cable (see methodology on Page S-8.

International Family Entertainment completed the 100 list at $156.3 million, all of its media revenues from Family Channel and startup Cable Health Club.

Cable remains highly visible from top to bottom. Cable returns from 40 companies on the chart with cable units amassed revenues of $22.9 billion, up a collective 11.9%-easily the hottest media category.

IFE was joined as a first-timer in the 100 by Lifetime Television, Arts & Entertainment Network, Marvel Entertainment Group and New World Communications Group.

Marvel's media base is magazines and New World's is TV; both are controlled by Revlon Chairman Ronald Perelman.

New World turned the plodding TV market into a brave new world this past May. For a sizable investment from News Corp., it switched broadcast network affiliations largely from CBS to Fox for its 12 stations.

New World began amassing TV stations with the buyout of SCI Television in 1993. It added three former Times Mirror Corp. stations this year, and has a contract to buy four from Great American Communications Corp. by yearend.

The TV landscape is now a chessboard on which strategists play one station against another. Since the New World/Fox deal, the broadcast networks have wasted no time in negotiating lengthy contracts with various station group owners: CBS with Westinghouse; ABC with three E.W. Scripps stations; NBC with the Scripps Kansas City station that lost its Fox affiliation.

Station values have soared as affiliation "allegiance" has become the factor in the buying and selling of stations in a market also loosened by lower interest rates and an improved economy.

Buying and selling of cable has a different set of stimuli: government regulation and encroachment from deep-pocket Baby Bells, particularly new multiple systems operators, U S West and Southwestern Bell.

But the failure of several well-publicized Baby Bell/cable ventures is expected to keep prices down.

New government regulations allowing local cable franchising authorities to set rates for basic service is sapping cable TV's main revenue stream. Prices generally have either fallen back or stayed flat.

MSOs continue to look for clustering opportunities but seem almost desperate to develop new unregulated revenue sources such as pay-per-view, programming and even advertising.

Advertising as measured on the cable networks has been rising steadily. In 1993, it advanced an estimated 7.5%; that picked up to 9.4% in first-quarter 1994, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

The never-ending search to secure programming was behind Viacom's $10 billion purchase of Paramount Communications early this year. Chairman Barry Diller of QVC, the home shopping network outdueled in the deal, then offered his company, and services, to CBS Inc. only to attract a buyout offer for QVC from Comcast, a QVC investor that didn't want to lose the programming potential of the shopping network.

Home shopping is in vogue. Black Entertainment Television and MTV Networks are experimenting with limited shopping hours. E! and Lifetime have retail windows in scheduled programs.

Cable sellers among the 100: Times Mirror Corp., less than a year after selling its TV division, tendered its cable division to Cox Entertainment (Comcast was a bidder); Gaylord Entertainment has offered its cable systems for sale to concentrate on cable networks, The Nashville Network and Country Music Television, and on entertainment, Grand Ole Opry and Opryland.

Merger and acquisition activity is breaking up Crown Media, sold last month by parent Hallmark Cards to former partners of Cencom Cable Associates, the entity that owned the properties when sold to Hallmark in 1991. Maclean Hunter Communications, a 100 company in previous years, was bought by Rogers Communications and dropped from the list. Its U.S. cable operation will live on through the revenue stream of Comcast, which bought the systems from Rogers.

As for print, the newspaper industry's rather sluggish growth reflected stagnant advertising-up 4.14% in 1993 according to Newspaper Association of America, although higher than the previous year's 2.1%-and a poor showing by West Coast newspaper divisions: Copley Newspapers (San Diego Union-Tribune) dropped 3.1% in revenue, Chronicle Publishing (San Francisco Chronicle) fell 1.1%, Los Angeles Times-dominated Times Mirror edged upward 1.9%, and Seattle Times-led Seattle Times Co. grew 1.6%.

Hollinger, one of the better growth companies, will see its revenue in 1994 more than double with the inclusion of the newly purchased Chicago Sun-Times Co., a company with revenues estimated at just over $231 million.

Papers will have a brighter '94 if first-quarter ad growth of 6.35% takes root.

Similarly, first-quarter 1994 growth of 6% in magazine advertising looks encouraging to the 35 companies in the 100 with magazine properties-a group that grew 4.8% from magazines to a collective $14 billion revenue in 1993.

Computer magazines continue to outperform the rest. CMP Publications advanced 20.2% in revenue; International Data Group and Ziff Communications (now on the auction block) grew 16.1% and 16%, respectively, from U.S. properties.

Magazines have been taking a back seat among a number of the media leaders. The New York Times Co. sold its women's group publications earlier this year to Bertelsmann's Gruner & Jahr.

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