Make Mess Worse: Vote Interactive TV


It was only a matter of time before a publicity-hungry interactive TV company would use the election showdown to hype their product.
"Emerging interactive TV technology to impact the 2004 election,"

read the subhead in the press release recently sent out by Kobalt Interactive. Such technology "will transform the way voters interact with candidates for public office," Kobalt declared. It also cited a Luntz Research survey that indicated "more than half of all non-voters (54 percent) would be more likely to vote if allowed to vote electronically." Kobalt may be a bit opportunistic, but they got our attention.

Comedy Central executives have congratulated themselves on the aptness of "Indecision 2000," the banner for the network's comedic coverage of the presidential campaign. Now
"Indecision 2000"

has gone mainstream,

sort of. In mid-November, as the Bush-Gore cliffhanger outcome remained in doubt amid recounts and endless talk of "hanging chads," "dimpled chads," "butterfly ballots" and the like in Florida, MSNBC used an "Indecision 2000" headline several times on its Web site to call attention to its "Q & A on the election."

The Nov. 6 meeting of the Tustin, Calif., City Council was an evening of cable bashing. But residents noticed that its tenor had changed considerably when AT&T Broadband reran the meeting on an access channel. AT&T Broadband took heat for audio drop-outs during the live coverage and, at city request, reran the meeting during the following week.
But one of the speakers-a local Dish Network dealer, who used AT&T's own bandwidth to plug his competitive wares-magically disappeared

during the repeat showings. Consumers cried conspiracy at the Nov. 20 meeting, but City Council members had to admit they had pre-approved the snips. AT&T balked at publicizing alternate technologies while they're trying to turn around their service problems, and the panel agreed to the edits, said Mayor Jeffery Thomas.

Hoping to catch up with NBC president Bob Wright, we trekked across the George Washington Bridge to cover the groundbreaking of CNBC's future headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, N.J., last Tuesday.
Wright was a no-show, but New Jersey Gov. Christie Whitman made an unexpected appearance,

joining CNBC president Bill Bolster and the Englewood Cliffs mayor on the dais. CNBC officials told us Wright was sick. CNBC surveyed employees to see if they wanted the new headquarters to move to Manhattan, or stay in New Jersey. Whitman boasted during her short speech that 80 percent of the employees voted for the Garden State. Bolster said CNBC will spend $120 million to $140 million on the new complex. To avoid traffic on the GWB, it'll contain a heliport for commuting to and from Wall Street.

It's Beatlemania all over again-well, almost.

The Beatles Revolution
, co-produced by ABC Entertainment and VH1, just scored big time among adults 18 to 49 in the Nielsen Media Research ratings. Then there are the "Beatles Anthology" book and "1," an aptly named CD compilation of No. 1 hit singles, on store shelves, plus the Fab Four's newly launched official Web site.
TV Guide

two weeks ago jumped on the bandwagon with a cover story on the Liverpudlians (complete with four different "collector's covers"), while its Web site ran a Beatles trivia quiz. And last week MTV: Music Television and
Rolling Stone
, in touting MTV's weeklong "100 Greatest Pop Songs" special, noted that only the Beatles had two tunes in the top 10-"Yesterday" (No. 1) and "I Want to Hold Your Hand." Next up: Romance Classics'
Great Romances

will profile John Lennon and Yoko Ono on Dec. 4 and Paul and Linda McCartney on Dec. 18, and VH1 plans a Dec. 3
Behind the Music

on Lennon. Also in December,
A Hard Day's Night

gets a theatrical rerelease. Oh, and Ringo Starr is in an ongoing commercial for Charles Schwab & Co. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

The Washington, D.C., law firm of Lawler, Metzger & Milkman, populated with former senior Federal Communications Commission officials under chairman Reed Hundt, has an interesting cast of clients deeply involved in mergers pending before the FCC-and
some appear to have conflicting interests.

In the America Online Inc.-Time Warner Inc. merger, the firm represents Excite@Home Corp., the AT&T-controlled high-speed Internet access provider that wants the FCC to require AOL to ensure its instant-messaging service interoperates with competing IM services. While that debate rages, Lawler, Metzger is representing NorthPoint Communications Inc., which needs FCC approval to merge with Verizon Communications. AT&T, meanwhile, strongly opposes the NorthPoint-Verizon marriage, but has retained Sidley & Austin to battle Lawler, Metzger on that front. Name partner Ruth Milkman said there was no legal conflict because the mergers were separate proceedings and her firm was representing Excite@Home, not AT&T, in the AOL-Time Warner merger. "Excite is not AT&T," she said. AT&T spokesman Jim McGann agreed: "While we have majority voting control over Excite@Home, they are a separate company and they pick their own law firms."

Hot show news:

During the Western Show in L.A.,VH1 is planning a live
My VH1 Music Awards

special on Nov. 30 at 6 p.m., which persuaded Adlink, the L.A. interconnect, to cancel its annual cocktail reception. Hot Networks says its Nov. 29 Western Show party, at the El Rey Theatre in L.A., will be headlined by the Goo Goo Dolls. Meanwhile, Odyssey Network says its self-proclaimed "bag that rules the convention" will be "back by popular demand" at its booth; its duffels on wheels will be decorated with a Muppet to be named later. Also, Odyssey promises a cable guy or gal could win a walk-on role in an upcoming Sherlock Holmes movie; ops can enter at its booth.