Through the Wire

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Contributors: Kent Gibbons, Ted Hearn.

NBC U Booth Wrings Out After Katrina

Hurricane Katrina of course had a huge destructive impact on everything concerning the National Cable & Telecommunications Association’s upcoming National Show. For starters, the site shifted to Atlanta from New Orleans and the date was moved up more than a month, to April 9-11.

But consider the effect on NBC Universal Cable Networks, which had stored its giant 70 feet by 100 feet trade show exhibition area in a New Orleans warehouse that was severely flooded after the late August storm.

Erica Goldman, vice president of marketing for the General Electric Co.-owned programming stable, said last week that it wasn’t immediately clear, in the confusion after much of the city was flooded, how much damage the booth had sustained. It wasn’t until November that the booth management firm, Tangram International Exhibitions, determined close to 40% of the booth’s volume was destroyed.

Many of the “fabric boxes” that comprise the booth were stored high in the warehouse and survived. Sadly, though, the items destroyed included “my reception desk, the bar, some electronics,” and furniture, Goldman said. “All replaceable, certainly.”

Hopefully, a happy ending is near. Goldman said Tangram is on pace to make the necessary changes in time, including the customizing that gets done every year (such as last year when the merger with Universal expanded the network group’s name).

“We’re in a spot where I’m very comfortable about the execution of it in April,” she said. “Although we started earlier, [Katrina] really didn’t put us behind.”

The new booth will be stored in a dry location in Westchester County, N.Y.

Cable Puts On Glitz At Pre-Oscar Events

The cable industry basked in a little pre-Oscar night glory at two separate events.

In Santa Monica, the Independent Film Channel hosted its annual after-party for the always-packed Independent Spirit Awards. That fete is a casual affair, under a circus tent on the beach in Santa Monica, honoring the best in independent films, a slate which this year closely mirrored the Academy Award lineup.

IFC’s March 4 party was just a saunter through the sand away at the resort hotel Shutters on the Beach. Crash star and Oscar nominee Terrence Howard made the walk, as did co-star rapper Ludacris. Elbowing each other at the bar were Jeremy Piven (Entourage), Josh Lucas, Spirit Awards host Sarah Silverman and boyfriend Jimmy Kimmel, director Kevin Smith (who merited catcalls during the cablecast for coarse comments about his wife and sex life), one Baldwin (Billy) and two Wayans (Damon and Marlon).

The preceding night, environmentally conscious stars attended the Global Green Party at the Henry Fonda Music Box Theater in Los Angeles. Covering the green (not red) carpet was The Weather Channel’s Dr. Heidi Cullen. Rather than the awards show staple question “What are you wearing,” Cullen quizzed celebs about their views on global warming and climate change.

On Lies, Damned Lies And Cable Statistics

The average cable bill has gone up 86% over the last ten years.”

So begins the latest cable-bashing TV spot funded by the U.S. Telecom Association, the trade group that includes AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. The ad makes its point by showing TV sets shooting like rockets through the roofs of suburban homes en route to distant galaxies unknown.

The USTA’s ad omitted a few inconvenient facts. The 86% figure (which refers to nominal, not inflation-adjusted prices) was derived from the Federal Communications Commission’s 2004 cable price survey. In the same statistical table, the FCC reported the following: From July 1995 to Jan. 2004, the number of cable channels offered in expanded basic increased 61% and per-channel cable rates rose by 9% while the cost of living (price inflation) rose by 20%.

What that means is this: Per-channel cable rates, adjusted for inflation, did not rise but actually declined.

AT&T Broadband — when it was the nation’s largest cable company — used to stress per-channel rates. “The cable industry has held the line on prices,” AT&T said in an Aug. 3, 2001 filing at the FCC. “Since 1986, the per-channel price for cable has decreased when adjusted for inflation from 69 [cents] per channel to 66 [cents] per-channel in spite of soaring programming costs.”

So why don’t those USTA ads show TV sets crashing into the ground?

'Cheerleader’ Show Brings Out PomPoms at Lifetime

Pyramids may no longer be in their repertoire but the March 12 debut of Cheerleader Nation on Lifetime Television prompted mists of nostalgia to swirl among the network’s cheer vets.

“You don’t always admit to this, but with the series coming out, we’re coming out of the woodwork,” joked Louise Henry Bryson, president of distribution and affiliate business development at Lifetime Entertainment Services and executive vice president and general manager of Lifetime Movie Network. Bryson cheered for Lewis & Clark High School in Spokane, Wash., and later for the University of Washington.

Katherine Urbon, vice president of corporate communications, was on the cheer squad at rival Washington State University, a few years later.

Bryson said cheerleading has changed. “We did cheers, some dancing, and tried to look pretty … Cheerleaders today are real athletes.” She added the new series “really shows the sport: the tumblers, the acrobats. It really takes a lot of discipline today.”