Cable Names Dot-Com: Game Plans on Display?

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Cablevision Systems Corp. is thinking about giving away
cable modems free-of-charge, The History Channel may launch local Web sites in every state
of the union and General Electric Co. doesn't want Web surfers pointing their
browsers to gesucks.com.

That's a taste of some of the information buried in a
database operated by Network Solutions Inc. (www.networksolutions.com), which
registers Web addresses.

Businesses and individual Web-site owners regularly use the
database to see if names of Web sites they'd like to register are available.

The information also offers a peek at the potential
business plans of dozens of media companies, which may be useful for everyone from
competitors to prying journalists. Poring through the Network Solutions database could
allow Web surfers to learn of mergers and acquisitions before they are announced.

America Online Inc. registered aoltimewarner.com
Jan. 9, the day before its merger with Time Warner Inc. was announced, but the
registration was not disclosed until later.

Some of the Web addresses seem to offer cogent information
on strategies of cable outfits like Cablevision and A&E Television Networks.

Many other sites have been registered as a defensive play
to ensure that people don't warehouse them in order to sell them at a hefty price
down the road, some media companies said.

Cablevision has registered some of the most intriguing
sites. Last fall, the company registered cablemodemforfree.com, getfreecablemodem.com,
wizcablemodem.com and wizmodem.com.

The sites suggest that Cablevision, which has been
tight-lipped about its broadband strategy, may be considering doling out free cable modems
through its retail chain, The Wiz.

"These Web domain names are components of the
strategic plans relating to Cablevision's high-speed Internet business," a
Cablevision spokesman said, adding that the company will have more to say about the sites
in coming months.

Cablevision has registered dozens of other sites, including
digitalnichenetworks.com and americancatholictv.com.

Starz Encore Media Group LLC chairman John Sie is a big
proponent of subscription-video-on-demand services, and some of the sites his company
recently registered suggest that it will expand its VOD plans.

The company registered truestoriesondemand.com, betmoviesondemand.com,
mysteryondemand.com, starzimpulse.com, enccoreimpulse.com, encoreondemand.com,
lovestoriesondemand.com, actionondemand.com, wamondemand.com, encorenow.com,
westernsondemand.com and starznow.com.

"We have secured a series of domain names that are
logical extensions of our channel brands. While the full breadth of possible
Internet-ready SVOD applications is still in development, we clearly see the Internet as a
logical medium to expand our audience," Starz Encore spokesman Eric Becker said.

Home Box Office has also registered sites relating to the
VOD business, securing the domain names for hboondemand.com, cinemaxondemand.com
and maxondemand.com. VOD vendor Diva Systems Corp. demonstrated a VOD application
featuring HBO at the Western Show in 1998, which was called "HBO On Demand."

"As a matter of course, we register URLs [uniform
resource locators] that we think may be useful down the line," an HBO spokesman said.

A&E Networks appears to be planning a localized Web
strategy for its History Channel unit. The company registered Web sites for every state in
the country, from mississippihistory.com to southdakotahhistory.com.

"We have registered and continue to register domain
names that may have future applications for interactive businesses, and those domain names
are a matter of public record," spokesman Gary Morgenstein said, declining to comment
on plans for the Web sites.

The Network Solutions database also offers cable operators
a glimpse at possible future plans from their telco and satellite competitors.

After scrapping its Dover Township, N.J., video trials over
a fiber-to-the-curb infrastructure, Bell Atlantic Corp.'s key video strategy these
days is reselling DirecTV Inc.'s direct-broadcast satellite service.

But some of the domain names the company's Bell
Atlantic Video Services division registered in September may suggest that the company
plans to do more than just pitch DirecTV to its local telephone subscribers.

Bell Atlantic Video registered digitalvideotv.com, bellatlantictv.com
and bavtv.com. A spokeswoman downplayed the Web sites, saying they're not tied
to a new video strategy.

In November, DirecTV registered directventertainment.com.
While DirecTV has increased the amount of exclusive programming it offers to subscribers,
spokeswoman Gina Scalise said the site isn't tied to a specific plan, such as
creating a DirecTV original-programming division.

"We wanted to make sure we would have [the sites] for
future use," she said, noting that many people have registered domain names with the
hopes of selling them to companies that would want to use them down the road.

DirecTV has also registered directvsports.com, directvmusic.com,
directvinteractive.com and directvevents.com, among others.

Mediacom LLC has registered a few interesting sites,
including mediacom-italia.com. Does the MSO -- based in Middletown, N.Y., and
chaired by Rocco Commisso -- plan to enter Italy?

A Mediacom spokesman declined to comment on the Web sites
the company has registered, citing a securities-law quiet period leading up to the
company's planned initial public offering. The MSO also registered mediacomnetworks.com,
mediacombroadband.com and other site names.

The Weather Channel also has some international expansion
plans on the brain. The network has registered several Web sites, including tiempolatino.com,
wetterdeutsch.com, lameteologia.com, meteo-italia.com and weather-uk.com.

Spokeswoman Connie Malko said the company registered the
addresses for future international sites, not new networks. She added that the network has
no set timeline for rolling out the international sites.

In 1995, James Egelhof, who was 17 at the time, created a
Web site called aolsucks.com, dedicated to his gripes with AOL, including
"censorship," "poor service," "legal threats,"
"security" and "spam," according to the site.

Since then, many companies -- including the former
Tele-Communications Inc., GE, Bell Atlantic, Cable News Network and MSNBC -- have
registered similar site names, apparently to prevent the same thing from happening to
them. The media companies have locked up tcisucks.com, gesucks.com, cnnsucks.com
and msnbcsucks.com.

An offshoot of that TCI expletive was employed to good
effect in 1997, though, as a repository of complaints after the company made widespread,
economically based channel-lineup changes.

Apparently looking to prevent anyone from taking potshots
at its CEO, Jack Welch, GE also registered strikejackwelch.com.

But some companies were beaten to the punch. Secaucus,
N.J.-based Secaucus Group has registered negative sites for some media companies,
including disneysucks.com and viacomsucks.com. Other individuals have
registered abcsucks.com, nbcsucks.com and cbssucks.com.

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