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Dead Deal Leaves Network Future Unclear

The collapse of Turner Broadcasting System Inc.’s discussions about buying NBC leaves the outlook for ownership of the major broadcast networks murky.

Turner Chairman Ted Turner still covets a broadcast network, and many media analysts said his Turner Broadcasting cable empire made a good fit with NBC.

But Turner still hasn’t shown he can finance such a deal. Nor has he resolved the ownership conflicts within his company necessary to buy a network.

While he may try to arrange a deal with network owner CBS Inc., analysts say it is more likely Turner will focus on his existing businesses.

John Welch Jr., General Electric Co.’s chairman and chief executive, demonstrated his faith in the network business, rebuffing Turner’s proposal that he relinquish control of the National Broadcasting Co. as part of their deal.

Analysts question whether anyone will pay a premium for a minority stake in NBC, and expect GE will encourage international expansion of the media concern.

Analyst John Reidy of Smith Barney said GE and Turner could even resume discussions.

Takeover speculation has engulfed the major networks since last summer when CBS agreed to merge with the home shopping channel operator QVC Inc. The deal unraveled when QVC shareholder Comcast Corp. made a counteroffer for the shop-byTV retailer.

General Electric, which acquired NBC in 1986, hired an investment banker later in the summer to evaluate proposals it was receiving involving NBC.

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