Through the Wire


Contributors: Linda Moss, Linda Haugsted.

Hallmark Crown Might Fit Anschutz

Crown Media Holdings might want to send a nice card to Colorado billionaire Philip Anschutz, who some cable-industry folks peg as a prospect to buy Crown's up-for-sale Hallmark Channel.

Anschutz, a founder of Qwest Communications International Inc., has a wide-ranging portfolio of businesses that include film producer Walden Media. That's the specific Anschutz business unit said to have expressed an interest in Hallmark, according to people following the process on Wall Street and at the network, which is being shopped for possible sale by Citigroup Smith Barney.

Anschutz is just one of several potential suitors for Hallmark Channel. Others include the usual suspects — Time Warner Inc., Viacom Inc., News Corp. and Comcast Corp.

But Anschutz, characterized as a conservative Christian, in the past few years has voiced an interest in owning a family-oriented cable network, cable-industry executives say. Hallmark Channel would fit the bill, if Anschutz pursues the matter.

His current holdings include movie theaters and sports properties, and his Hollywood resume includes financing Oscar-winner Ray. Along with The Walt Disney Co., Walden Media is co-producing the soon-to-be-released theatrical The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.

Walden Media and the notoriously press-shy Anschutz couldn't be reached for comment last week.

Crown confirmed hiring Citigroup as its adviser, but the so-called “book” on Hallmark hasn't been completed, so the process is still in its early stages, several sources said.

Jude Blake Leaves Europe To Toil in the Vineyards

There's something about Europe, starting a Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing chapter and becoming a vintner. “The CTAM wine connection,” Jude Blake called it last Wednesday, on her way to the airport and some Grove Street Winery tastings in Moscow and St. Petersburg, Russia.

Blake is the onetime Ameritech Corp. phone and cable marketer who's leaving Zurich and her job as chief marketer at Swiss MSO Cablecom GmbH to run Grove Street, of Sonoma County, California.

Here's the wine connection. Nimrod Kovacs, the chairman of Liberty Global Inc.'s UPC Central Europe cable operation, owns Monarchia Wines of Hungary. He helped start the CTAM Rocky Mountain chapter. Blake was in at the founding of CTAM Europe, which hosted the EuroSummit.

And now she's off to run a winery.

Blake — who was talking to Grove Street owner Peter S. Paul about the gig way before Cablecom decided last month to sell out to Liberty Global — said she's combining two passions: “my love of the wine world and 'giving back' a bit of myself to worthwhile causes that can make a great difference for those less fortunate than I.” (Grove Street donates a portion of wine sales to charity.)

She's also “really excited about the wines themselves.”

Yeah, cable's cool, but you can't sip it.

Cox to Roanoke Sub: Don't Call Us, Please

A spokesman for the Virginia State Corporation Commission said it was an action he's rarely seen: a telephone company notifying a customer that it no longer desired that consumer's business.

But the Cox Communications Inc. system in Roanoke tried to take just that action recently with a customer who called more than 300 times in less than a year with complaints about her Cox services.

According to tariffs filed with the state regulators, Cox can terminate customers who “vex, harass or annoy” the company.

The consumer, Patricia Gallagher told the Roanoke Times she did call “quite a lot,” complaining about noise on her line. Sometimes, she said, she had to call repeatedly because the phone cut out as she was trying to contact the company.

Cox did everything it could to appease the customer and stands behind its reputation for exceptional customer service, according to Mike Pedelty, director of public affairs in Roanoke. “We spent a great deal of time and energy attempting to verify the issue, but were never able to validate the problems she claims to have experienced,” he said.

Ken Schrad, the regulatory spokesman, said Gallagher complained to his department and the SCC intervened on her behalf. The technical problem Gallagher perceived has been resolved and she will remain a Cox customer.

But state regulators recommended she call the state agency, and not Cox, in future, he said.