By Paul Maxwell Gunslingers? The "tall Texan" is challenging the "lanky Philadelphian" to … well, something? Who’s got the most subscribers? Who can keep the most subscribers? Who can poach the most subscribers? Who can develop the smartest bundled bill? Where’s PrimeStar when you need it? So, SBC is buying AT&T. Meanwhile, a well-managed and smartly growing Comcast is buying, what? Well, parts of Adelphia, of course; but what else and when? And Time Warner, hot off great earnings and out from under the SEC, gets most of Adelphia (all but La La Land while going public and getting rid of Comcast’s legacy interest?) leaving the two dominant cable operators even more dominant. Also meanwhile, Qwest bids for MCI (you remember WorldCom, don’t you?) and hopes Verizon thinks MCI is too small to worry about. Anybody wonder what BellSouth thinks? Might do? Or EchoStar? (An Aside: Branding is this era’s consumer mantra and two hallowed brands are takeover targets. But, as I mentioned back when AT&T was a "cable brand," AT&T has lost more customers than any brand in history … and is on track to make that the hardest record ever to top. And MCI, resurrected sort of, ain’t much better. Both target companies are limping along on what will be an ever-increasing downward spiral of long distance revenue. To be semi-fair, both brand names mean something to a collective four million business customers – especially overseas.) So what’s really going on here? What’s really going to happen? Not that we’ve got a working crystal ball (ours is always kind of cloudy), but here’s what it looks like to us: 1) SBC gets AT&T … then buys BellSouth. 2) Verizon buys Qwest and MCI. 3) Comcast gets Los Angeles while Time Warner Cable merges itself into Adelphia (thus being public) and changes the Adelphia name to Time Warner Cable. 4) Meanwhile, Comcast, which just doesn’t like Denver and the Rocky Mountains for some visceral non-reason, spins off Denver, Colorado Springs (which came from Adelphia) and the mountain resort towns to Bresnan Communications – which hits a nice critical mass. 5) SBC, with AT&T, strengthens ties with Sen Ted Stevens and attempts to re-write the ’96 Telecom Act to fit its own plans … but, 6) Doesn’t succeed because the cable industry, in a prescient bit of planning, has been working closely with Stevens already. 7) SBC then buys EchoStar … Ed Whitacre has picked Charles Ergen as his logical successor. 8) News Corp, peeved at the news surrounding everyone else, offers to buy Liberty Media and the NFL. 9) Disney, with a new CEO in waiting (?), bids for Yahoo and News Corp … just for fun. 10) Time Warner Cable, now with its own stock for currency, bids REALLY HIGH for Cablevision. 11) The forgotten Sprint/Nextel combo sells itself to the cable industry … which can now provide seamless "anywhere-anytime-any device" Internet protocol entertainment and communications. 12) Spin the bottle, anyone? Random Notes:

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