Through The Wire: Taking Killer App One Step Further

1/17/1999 7:00 PM Eastern

Blast from the past: While recovering from the flu andwatching a Law & Order rerun on A&E, a Wire correspondent perked up at areference to cable operators petitioning to air government-sponsored executions onpay-per-view. Since the show touts its "ripped-from-headlines" plot lines, wewondered if there really was such a call when the episode first aired, in September 1993.Well, sort of. The subject got a lot of press in early 1994, when NBC aired amade-for-TV movie, Witness to the Execution, about a PPV execution. Later, PhilDonahue and some other TV executives reportedly advocated such events, with Donahuesuggesting that the proceeds would benefit crime victims. But the idea never really gotmuch traction, and it doesn't really show up in Nexis searches after that. As NBCWest Coast president Don Ohlmeyer said in 1994, televising an execution for profit"would be like going back to the Coliseum with the Christians and the lions."

Do you think that Michael Jordan timed his retirementannouncement last week -- and opened a floodgate of tributes on ESPN and elsewhere -- toensure a top spot in the sports net's upcoming list of the 50 Greatest NorthAmerican Athletes of the 20th century? Muhammad Ali used to boast,"I am the greatest!" But we won't know until late this year whether thepanel that compiled the list for the yearlong SportsCentury project agreed. SportsCenter'sDan Patrick offered some guidance at the SportsCentury press conference in New Yorklast week, though. He acknowledged that tennis ace Chris Evert, footballer Jim Brown,hockey star Gordie Howe and swimmer Mark Spitz were among the top 50 -- since theyparticipated in that press event. But Patrick wouldn't answer Evert when she asked,"Where's Martina [Navratilova]?"

For a Northeast regional-sports-network executive,Jordan's retirement news conference last Wednesday seemed to stop business for atleast 30 minutes. The executive quipped that his usually ringing telephone wentunusually silent at noon on the day that Jordan retired from pro basketball for thesecond time. That happened once before: during the televised verdict in the 1995 O.J.Simpson trial.

Great planners sometimes think alike -- to their detriment.Chicago and San Francisco emerged as the top choices for some spring-summer industryconventions. The Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau's next local-sales-managementconference (June 5 through 7) and the National Cable Television Association'sNational Show (June 13 through 16) are both slated for the Windy City, while Promax (June9 through 12) and CTAM (July 18 through 21) are headed for the Bay area. Promax'sorganizers acknowledged that being scheduled back-to-back with the National Show mighthurt its hitherto growing cable attendance.

America's schools may end up being a beneficiary oflast week's acquisition of Kenan Systems by Lucent Technologies. It turns out thatKenan's founder and president, Kenan Sahin, is the sole owner of the company, and hewill be the recipient of the $1.48 billion in stock that Lucent will pay for the firm.But the freshly made billionaire is not eyeing yachts or Mediterranean mansions.Sahin, a 17-year veteran schoolteacher, said he will use "the bulk of the money"to set up a foundation to acquire and distribute computer software, at no cost, toeducational institutions.

By Kent Gibbons, from bureau reports.

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