Through the Wire


Cyma, 'Dora’s’ Alter Ego Wow Crowd

Cyma Zarghami got her first job because she could type. She got her second because she could cut and paste. And she became a general manager, she said, because she could take good meeting notes. “Don’t you just love cable?” she concluded.

Zarghami, president of Nickelodeon and MTV Networks Kids & Family Group, was named WICT’s Woman of the Year at Wednesday night’s annual Women in Cable & Telecommunications banquet at the Grand Hyatt in Washington, D.C.

Zarghami benefited from an MTVN full-court press on her behalf. A bigger-than-life Dora the Explorer was walking the hallway beforehand, getting her photo snapped with guests. The salute video — featuring MTV animated stars such as SpongeBob SquarePants and Dora, as well as living, breathing industry executives — could have seamlessly fit into the daytime or evening fare on a Nickelodeon network.

And it could also amuse audiences with industry executives’ attempts to pronounce the name of the 20-year veteran of MTVN (it’s “See-Ma Zar-Gah-Mee”).

The evening was hosted by Nick News anchor Linda Ellerbee (former anchor of NBC News Overnight). It featured an on-screen cameo by former Nick president and now-Oxygen Media chief Geraldine Laybourne, who is vacationing. And it added appearances by cable-operator honchos from Cox Communications CEO Pat Esser to Advance/Newhouse Communications’ Robert Miron to Insight Communications’ Michael Willner.

But the high point in the packed ballroom was the appearance on stage with MTVN CEO Judy McGrath of a young high-school student. When Kathleen Herles opened her mouth, out came the voice of … Dora the Explorer. Dora, of course, is the 7-year-old Latina heroine of Nick’s flagship program for youngsters.

Herles has been providing the voice of Dora for 10 years, since before the show originated in 1999. And if she can keep the pitch of her vocal chords high, she will still be surprising audiences as the voice of Dora when Zarghami reaches her 30th year at the program.

Cablevision Exec 'Hopes’ For $2,500 Cable Bills

Cablevision Systems chief operating officer Tom Rutledge, speaking at the Future of Television conference in New York last Friday, noted that when he started in the cable industry in 1977, the average revenue per subscriber was $4 per month.

Today, Cablevision generates close to $115 per month per subscriber, he continued.

Extrapolating out 30 years, Rutledge quipped, “I hope the average cable bill will be $2,500.” We think he was kidding — he got laughs, anyway.

People also laughed when Cablevision CEO James Dolan said during a Kagan Seminars panel in 2000 that “it’s not unrealistic to assume that you could see $500 per month” per cable customer some day. Only $150 of that would come from video, data and voice service, the rest from commerce with Cablevision’s other units, which at that time include consumer-electronics store The Wiz and which still includes the Madison Square Garden arena and its denizens, the New York Knicks and Rangers.

He wasn’t far off on the $150 part, at least.

Cisco Pulls a Quad Play On MLB’s Oakland A’s

Welcome to the (friendly?) confines of “Cisco Field.”

The networking heavy-hitter announced an agreement with Major League Baseball’s Oakland Athletics on Nov. 14, calling for Cisco to pay $4 million annually for up to 30 years for naming rights to the team’s planned 32,000-to-35,000-seat stadium in Fremont, Calif.

The A’s could begin playing at Cisco Field as soon as 2011, after the team’s commitment to McAfee Coliseum in Oakland — named for the Silicon Valley networking-security firm — expires.

As part of the deal, the A’s will “purchase Cisco technology to build and support the converged network of Cisco Field that will support data, voice, video and wireless services” — i.e., a “quadruple play” in industry shorthand, which unfortunately extends the baseball metaphor past the breaking point.

Other expected features of Cisco’s field of dreams: Luxury boxes may include “multimedia amenities for premium video content,” and Cisco’s high-definition TelePresence videoconferencing system “may even enable new forms of player-to-fan communications,” the company said in a release.

Because really, who wouldn’t love chatting with dirty, sweaty guys via an HD hookup?

Can Still-Lifes Win War Vs. Action Films in HD?

We were intrigued by the announcement last week that Comcast will launch a fine art display service on the company’s video-on-demand platform.

Users can call up art from the collections of such prestigious museums as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Philadelphia and Boston museums of art, as well photography from The National Geographic Society, all to be displayed in high definition.

But we couldn’t help imagining the living room battles for the remote, the challenge for the control for the Gigant-O-Vision: “Skippy, put down the Barney tape and drop the remote! We’re watching Monet right now!”

May culture win out.