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Through The Wire: Live from Vegas, Egos and Egos

4/25/1999 8:00 PM Eastern

FX'sratings probably rose a few percentage points April 9, based on buzz surrounding thatnight's episode of Penn & Teller's Sin City Spectacular.

If you somehow avoided the hype, you probably don't subscribe to the Internet mailinglist for devotees of the venerable New Rhythm & Blues Quartet, or NRBQ.Any appearance of the whimsical band on, say, a CoxCablelocal-origination channel prompts a flood of missives alerting fans.This was no exception, and the devoted were especially pleased that their band was on anational network. Reaction was mixed about the song -- a quirky ditty called"Everybody's Smokin'."

With the band's chance to make new fans, some thought that they should have done amore commercial number, like near-hit "Ridin' in My Car." One writer askedwhether the selection was "a sin," or "did they just fulfill their roleby providing a surreal song (loved those bells on the keyboard) for this surreal/Vegasversion of The Ed Sullivan Show meets Tod Browning's Freaks."Another "liked the cigarettes in the peg-heads of the guitars." Sure to be avideo bootleg near you.

And now, a NationalAssociation of Broadcasters three-item suite: OracleCorp. chairman and noted ego Larry Ellison had more than a few people buzzingabout his keynote speech at the NAB convention in Las Vegas last Monday. Although thehour-long sales pitch for Oracle's interactive-television solution did provide somegood demos, Ellison's boast that the system was "100% Oracle" drew snickersfrom executives at OpenTV Inc.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based software company says Oracle's interactiveapplications were written on its operating system. The speech also featured 3-D glassesthat didn't seem to do anything, a balky microphone that sometimes generated NeilYoung-esque feedback squeal and a sycophantic questioner asking Ellison -- who haspiloted MiG-29 fighter jets -- how he felt seeing one of those planes get"flamed" in Kosovo. "I was sorry to see it go down," Ellison said."I was also sorry that it wasn't carrying Slobodan Milosevic."

If you're wondering why it's taking broadcastersso long to roll out digital-video programming, the answer may be that they haven'tfigured out that digital-TV sets are for, well, video programming.

The NAB had sparkling new Sony digital monitors posted outside of the frequentlyovercrowded meeting rooms at the Sands Exposition Center. But instead of providing videoof the sessions to those forced to stand outside of those packed, sometimes fetid venues, thesets were functioning as electric billboards, showing still text of the sessionagendas.

Suggestion for next time, guys: bigger rooms, or video feeds to your TV sets.

His routine wasn't exactly Rodney Dangerfield stuff,but Time Warner vice chairman TedTurner finally got some "respect" from NAB attendees during his keynote addresslast week. Predictably, the colorful media mogul used ribald humor to disarm a packedcrowd. Turner brought the house down by recounting the NAB's reaction to hisapplication to rejoin the group years after he'd jumped to cable by converting astruggling UHF station in Atlanta into WTBSSuperstation. "They turned me down," he said. "They said,'Stick with them, you a__h__e.'" However, he drew groans when he said arecent downturn in Time Warner stock had trimmed his fortune by $1 billion and taught himthat "after you're worth a couple of hundred million dollars, the restdoesn't amount to very much."

The Wire mentioned several weeks ago that a colleague gotjunk mail intended for a certain New York-area MSO mogul. (By the way, the mogul nevercalled, asking for that yacht-lease brochure.) Our current favorite regularlymisaddressed pieces are analyst reports from Gerard Klauer Mattison Inc., best known fortaking the recently resurgent wireless cable industry public. Note to GKM: Gustave M.Hauser, who ran Warner Cable Communications in the 1970s and made a fortune selling hiscable systems to Southwestern Bell in 1993, doesn't pick up mail sent to 25 West 17thStreet.


By Kent Gibbons, from bureau reports.

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