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Cablevision venture not viable, says Murdoch

New York, Nov. 22: News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch said Thursday that he doubts Cablevision System Corp’s plans for a new satellite TV service can succeed and that he rejected an offer to be a partner in the venture.

“We do not believe in the viability of it,” Murdoch said at a news conference in Manhattan after the annual meeting of Fox Entertainment Group. “I don’t think they have sufficient spectrum to compete with the others.”

Murdoch’s remarks are especially notable because his company controls one of the world’s biggest overseas satellite ventures and because he tried to acquire DirecTV—the biggest US satellite TV service— and said he may try again, depending on price. Murdoch has joined with Cablevision chairman Charles Dolan in ventures over the years, including their current sports and entertainment partnership that includes Madison Square Garden.

Cablevision plans to launch a Lockheed-Martin satellite in March and may start offering service to much of the United States by 2004.

But a plan for Cablevision to gain extra satellite transmission capacity and equipment from EchoStar Communications is all but dead because government regulators have blocked the proposed merger of DirecTV and EchoStar.

“To come in at this stage would take a lot,” Murdoch said, estimating the price of such a venture at billions of dollars. Cablevision is spending $ 140 million on the satellite venture this year and plans to spend at least another $ 75 million next year.

Cablevision chief executive James Dolan said earlier this month that one of the options is to sell the satellite after it is launched.

“We certainly could buy it,” Murdoch said in response to a question.

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