Through the Wire


Contributor: R. Thomas Umstead.

Bigwigs, Underlings Poke at Parsons

Richard Parsons’s top lieutenants at Time Warner Inc. didn’t pull any punches last Thursday at a luncheon roast honoring their chairman and CEO in New York.

During a taped spoof interview produced by Time Warner Cable’s New York 1 News channel, an anchor asked Time Warner executives Jeff Bewkes and Don Logan what they thought of how Parsons helped reduce the media giant’s debt load.

“He didn’t do that. I did that,” Logan, chairman of Time Warner’s media and communications group, told the anchor.

“I can’t believe what he [Logan] is saying,” responded Bewkes, chairman of Time Warner’s entertainment and networks group.

“If you want to go outside and settle this like Viacom, let’s do it,” Logan shot back, poking fun at the reported infighting at Viacom Inc.

Earlier, at the Center for Communications luncheon at New York’s Pierre Hotel, new Time Inc. editor-in-chief John Huey mocked corporate raider Carl Icahn, who has been pushing for a seat on Time Warner’s board.

Huey came up with a campaign slogan for the Time Warner investor: “Vote for Icahn — let me do for TWX what I did for TWA.” (TWA filed for bankruptcy in ’92, four years after Icahn took over the airline).

News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch praised Parsons at the end of the roast, suggesting their relationship wouldn’t mirror his well-known fallout with Ted Turner. Murdoch even suggested Parsons might be a candidate one day for New York City mayor. “We might just be honoring him again in November 2009, but this time on the steps of City Hall,” the Australian-born media mogul said.

CNN anchor Paula Zahn, who studied the cello in college, opened up the luncheon by playing an off-key version of “Take The A Train” with a jazz quartet. Zahn, who changed her hairstyle for the event — Parsons said it resembled Sharon Stone’s look — was later teased by Parsons. “This new kind of Sharon Stone Basic Instinct thing … it kind of doesn’t work with the cello, so think it through,” Parsons said, to a torrent of laughs.

First Comes Love, Then Comes Video Serenade

First Comcast Corp. gave subscribers the chance to meet significant others via an on-demand dating service.

Now it’s giving consumers a chance to serenade their new loves, with such songs as “Freebird.”

Comcast now plans to soon launch a Karaoke On Demand service as part of its offerings. Consumers can sing along to renditions of over 100 popular songs, including “Mack The Knife” and “Celebration.” “All of the research we did show that karaoke is of great interest to an audience and they perceive it to be a unique and different application that could be delivered to their TV,” said Comcast On Demand vice president and general manager Page Thompson, who said subscribers will have to supply their own microphones and speakers. (And date, of course.)

Cable Positive’s Mass Message

New York — Cable Positive unveiled the second phase of its “Join The Fight” HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention campaign in the 23rd Street offices of Time Warner Cable here last week. Themed “Weapons of Mass Instruction,” the campaign, created by Cable Positive and producer Kismet Films, features a series of 25 spots, including 11 taggable iterations, in which the likes of Rosario Dawson, Matthew Broderick, S. Epatha Merkerson, Jimmy Fallon, Allan Houston and other celebrities talk about how they can use their weapons — hearts, voices and minds — in the ongoing battle. The yearlong campaign launches on Dec. 1, in support of World AIDS Day.