Through The Wire: Cable Jockeys for Next Big Thing

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What is the next killer app for cable operators? One majorMSO executive is touting Television Games Network, which will let cablesubs watch and bet on horse races at the click of a button. TVG, which is owned by TVGuide Inc., has declined so far to talk about its business plan, but The Wire's MSOsource said he saw a presentation in which operators would get a piece of the bettinghandle. The source said that even if TVG's projections are three times toohyped-up, the network's revenues hold a "huge potential." A second MSOexec, who hadn't seen the presentation, was also bullish on the idea. There'sone problem, the first MSO exec said: Operators might be skittish about promoting gamblingand getting into the bookie business, just as they were with marketing soft porn. Still,he said, if cable doesn't go for it, someone else will.

Jaffe Legal News Service, a Washington, D.C.-basedmarketing company for law firms, issued a release last week with an unusual take on theMarch 31 sunset of cable-rate regulation. After noting that many non-price-relatedregulations will remain in effect, JLNS then ran the following quote, attributed toWashington cable attorney Steven Lancellotta, a JLNS client: "The [cable] industryhas shot itself in the foot by creating new regulatory hurdles for itself by expandingits multichannel-video-distribution business and expending considerable energy andresources that will allow for high-speed data, Internet access and IP telephony."Reachedfor comment, Lancellotta disavowed the quote. Jaffe flak David Olsen said he gave theassignment to a writer "who clearly missed the mark."

PrimeStar Inc. may not be trying to be humorous with thenew discounted installation offer found on its Web site. But The Wire can't help butchuckle at the "Race to Get It" slogan, given the company's pending sale toDirecTV Inc. It's a pretty good bet that the company is trying to play up itsNASCAR sponsorship, and not to alert potential customers to the fact that PrimeStarmight be in its final days of signing new subscribers.

Attention Gerry, Oprah and Marcy: It may be time to callyour trademark attorney. Last week, the FCC granted a license to a company that isplanning to do business under the name, "The Oxygen Network." However, it isimportant to point out that the FCC licensee is not planning to launch a cable network incompetition with Laybourne's venture. Instead, the otherOxy isplanning to girdle the globe with 160,000 kilometers of fiber optic cable, with landingpoints in 78 countries.

Talk about brownnosing: EchoStar Communications Corp.chairman and CEO Charlie Ergen played host at his Denver-area home last Thursday to aprivate, $1,000-per-plate fund-raiser for GOP presidential hopeful John McCain. TheDBS-friendly senator from Arizona also appeared several months ago on the monthly"Charlie Chat" for Dish Network subscribers.

One Senate staffer who was influential in drafting theTelecommunications Act of 1996 is bemoaning his loss of influence on the Hill. That'spretty funny, considering that Chip Pickering now serves on the House TelecommunicationsSubcommittee. The Missouri Republican was a senior aide to then-Sen. (now Majority Leader)Trent Lott (R-Miss.). "I ran for Congress and quickly lost my influence," hesaid last week. As a junior member of the panel, the second-term rep is usually one of thelast to be recognized to speak.


By R. Thomas Umstead, from bureau reports.

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