Marcia! Marcia! Marcia!

In a pseudo-counteroffer, Comcast wants to
wrestle control of [email protected] from AT&T.
Its plans to turn the tables on AT&T’s strategy to boost
its voting stake in [email protected] won’t fly, but it’s just another day in an
ongoing made-for-TV movie.


This is like a bad episode of The Brady Bunch. Excite and @Home
hopped into bed after much hand-wringing over a content pairing with the
cable access provider. Some thought AOL, while
others eyeballed Yahoo!. But everybody knows venture
capitalist John Doerr’s bad blood with Yahoo, and his firm already had a
stake in Excite and @Home. Everybody’s happy.


In bursts Ma Bell and the whole shebang goes to hell in a hand basket. The
telecomm giant is a plumber. They like big pipes but couldn’t care less
about content. So AT&T scoops up TCI, and with it, a handsome stake
in @Home. Kleiner Perkins goes on the offensive and pulls a power play by
gifting half of @Home to Excite. It waters down AT&T’s stake, while keeping
Kleiner in the driver’s seat.


The VC firm didn’t trust AT&T. And it was right not to. Michael Armstrong
decides to scoop up [email protected], but he’s itching to shop off Excite to
some other suitor. No sooner are the two on their honeymoon when AT&T
starts two-timing [email protected] with a not-so-discreet AOL content deal on
the table. Marcia! Marcia! Marcia!


Whose side is AT&T on anyway? Their own side. In the meantime,
[email protected]’s share price is reduced to rubble, as nothing more than a
tracking stock, while investors are left holding the bag.


So along comes a suitor who loves the content play but cares little for the
pipes. Wild rumors start swirling over a three-way swap-meet that has Yahoo
rescuing Excite, and separating @Home in a joint-venture with AT&T. Did I
mention John Doerr doesn’t Yahoo!?


Now we’ve graduated to a steamy episode of Melrose Place. [email protected] and
Road Runner move like snails in rolling out cable access, while in the
meantime, some smart blokes at Bell Labs make copper look like gold. Almost
overnight, cable has a bevy of DSL vendors competing for mind share in
every major market across the country.


AT&T by now is busy fighting with AOL over open-access to its pipes. After
some entertaining saber rattling and beltway lobbying, AOL and Time
Warner
ran off to Vegas and eloped. AOL to AT&T, keep
the pipes. That foul smell that follows Peanuts Gang’s PigPen around is
starting to rub off on Ma Bell’s deals, past and present.


The AOL/Time Warner joint venture makes AT&T’s lollygagging look pretty
arrogant. While hindsight is 20/20, let’s read the tea leaves. [email protected]
looks fairly valued given the shifting sands of the Internet landscape. A
Comcast life preserver sounds amicable, but I just don’t see a premium for
the pipes and content player any time in the future, as all the arguments
for a lucrative valuation have fallen by the wayside.


[email protected] has been stuffed under AT&T’s pillow, and goodness knows it
deserves a better home. Comcast looks cozy; but for investors, it’ll come
up a day late and a dollar short. Did I mention [email protected]’s former
skipper Tom Jermoluk jumped ship last week to come aboard as a general
partner at Kleiner Perkins? Whoever said captains go down with the ship?


Any questions or comments, love letters or hate mail? As always, feel free
to forward them to [email protected].

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