'Fahrenheit’ Is on Cable Once Moore

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Contributors: Ted Hearn, Linda Moss

'Fahrenheit’ Is on Cable Once Moore

Here’s a November surprise: Fahrenheit 9/11 will indeed be on pre-election pay-per-view. Cable customers who buy PPV services via TVN Entertainment Corp. can see Michael Moore’s controversial anti-George Bush documentary tonight in their homes, for $9.95. The airing comes after PPV distributor In Demand backed out of a prior agreement.

TVN cut a deal with distributor Fellowship Adventure Group — established by Harvey and Bob Weinstein after The Walt Disney Co. refused to let Weinstein-run Miramax Film Corp. distribute the film — to run Fahrenheit on Nov. 1 at 8 and 11 p.m. (ET/PT).

That’s a full month before the polemic was slated to come up for its PPV/video-on-demand window, and it’s what auteur Moore wanted.

Fahrenheit 9/11 was supposed to be the main component of a Michael Moore election package on In Demand LLC, which later decided to pass for “legitimate legal and business concerns.”

A spokesman said TVN will run the film but not the half-hour special Fahrenheit 9/11: A Movement in Time. IFC ran that clips-and-reaction piece Friday night.

Still, this won’t be Fahrenheit’s cable debut: a public-access show on Time Warner Cable’s system in Binghamton, N.Y., ran it (without the cable provider’s consent) on Oct. 20.

System spokesman David Whalen returned home at 9:40 p.m. that night from a dinner and was greeted by complaints forwarded by the call center. Checking the access channel — where the environmentally themed “The Green Scene” usually runs — Whalen saw what he thought was Fahrenheit 9/11 based on clips he’d seen on Cable News Network and Fox News Channel. But by the time he alerted someone in the control room that the film was running, it was almost over.

In the ensuing days, Time Warner received “a decent, not a tremendous, amount of calls” falling largely into two camps. One group questioned the political content and its timing just two weeks before the election. The other was angered by the violence and the language.

Whalen said he answered all the calls and a few letters over the following weekend. He also spoke with Green Scene host Wilton Brought, who said he ran the film because “Michael told us to get the word out.”

Whalen then explained the meaning of the “big black screen at the end of movies with the FBI logo” and copyright infringement warnings.

“That’s me?’”Brought asked.

“That’s you,” Whalen replied.

Time Warner has since made “a flight change” and will require public-access hosts to provide written copyright permission before running filmed content.

By the by, Whalen said only one person who saw the public-access showing supported Fahrenheit 9/11 — but two who were going to vote for John Kerry reported they’d shifted over to President Bush’s corner.

What Sports Execs Have on Wish Lists

Moderating a panel among the heads of sports divisions at CBS, Fox, Turner and ABC/ESPN last Wednesday, hostess Robin Roberts must have forgotten to ask the assembled about their interest in National Football League rights, which expire after the 2005 season and could hit the formal negotiating stage after this year’s Super Bowl. But she did ask what properties on the others’ current rosters each coveted.

For CBS Sports president Sean McManus, it’s Major League Baseball’s World Series, even though it wouldn’t work for Black Rock because of its strong primetime lineup.

For Turner Entertainment Group president Mark Lazarus, it’s golf: First major, The Masters tournament.

Nothing so simple for ESPN/ABC Sports president George Bodenheimer, who declared: “We want it all.” Narrowing his list, Bodenheimer said he pined for The Masters and to get back into National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing contests.

Replied Fox Sports chairman David Hill: “And I’m here to stop you.”

Hill then talked up thoroughbred racing and poker, perhaps with an eye toward Texas hold-’em in primetime.

Let’s hope he’s bluffing about the poker part.

Brenner Wakes Up Sleepy Conference

A gathering of state utility regulators can border on the soporific — unless you invite a character like Dan Brenner to speak.

Brenner, the top lawyer at the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, landed on a panel last Tuesday that included 13 speakers, including attorneys, state regulators, and telecom industry officials. The Arlington, Va., forum was the National Summit on Broadband Deployment, hosted by the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners.

Apparently, Brenner considered the panel too large for each person to have adequate time. “I have some trepidation about a panel this large,” he deadpanned. “Thirteen people like this are good for two things: either a grand jury or an orgy. Given the age of the panel, we are stuck with jury service.”

That woke some folks up.

Opening Night Jitters Face All Playwrights

Gary Morgenstein, Lifetime Television’s director of trade and business publicity, is doing a lot more these days than just working on press releases. He spent the past year writing a play, Ponzi Man, inspired by the recent spate of white-collar crime. A staged reading of the work will take place Nov. 10 at the Center Stage Theater in Manhattan, where Morgenstein will go through the nerve-wracking experience of watching the reaction of an invited audience of friends and colleagues. “The only thing more terrifying than hearing your words read onstage is watching your son in Little League,” he said.

He’s no novice to the writing game, having penned two baseball-related novels and an earlier play. And he’s hoping to find a producer for Ponzi Man, a drama about an upper-class Jewish family in New Jersey betrayed by its fair-haired son and his shady shenanigans with the family business.

“When you write good versus evil, that’s melodrama,” Morgenstein said. “And when you write good versus good, that’s tragedy — that’s drama when you try to understand why someone would make a big mistake who isn’t evil.”

Drama, eh? TNT, take note.