Through The Wire: Digital Divide Hits -- Oprah?

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Oxygen founder-investor Oprah Winfrey confessed last weekthat she really has been Internet-ignorant, even though people find that hard to believe.At the network's launch party, Winfrey -- who is doing a series for Oxygen called OprahGoes Online --made reference to a story in TheWall Street Journal thatsaid TV critics were skeptical about the talk-show host's purported lack of knowledgeof the Web and computers, since she has had her own Web site for years.But Winfreysaid it was in fact true that before her new Oxygen show, she had never gone online byherself, despite having her own site. "That's why it's so pitiful,"Winfrey told the crowd. She added that at Herb Allen's annual summer meeting of mediatitans at Sun Valley, Idaho, Microsoft Corp. chairman Bill Gates asked attendees who hadnot been on the Internet. "I raised my own hand," Winfrey said, adding that shewas the only one to do so.

Which cable personality is featured in the current Playboy?We're sure none of our readers knows, so here's the answer: CNBC's JoeKernen. He joins several other celebrities, such as Tom Hanks and Pierce Brosnan, who"make looking good look easy." Kernen, often referred to on-air as the "BigKahuna," has been recognized for his good looks, and he is "as sharp with hiswardrobe as he is with identifying stock trends," according to Playboy.

Where were Super Bowl XXXIV heroes Issac Bruce and EddieGeorge 24 hours before kickoff? Both attended the star-studded opening of ESPN'snewest Zone restaurant and sports-game facility in Atlanta. The St. Louis Rams' Bruceand Tennessee Titans' George rubbed elbows with other such gridiron stars as JohnElway, Terrell Davis and Tony Dorsett, as well as TV stars Kim Delaney and Thomas Gibson.

Inquiring minds want to know: Which networks do cableoperators themselves watch? As part of its newest report, conducted with 153 ops last falland released last week, Beta Research Corp. queried the operators as to what onesthey'd watched "in the past seven days." Survey said: Discovery Channel ledamong major networks with 63 percent of the operators, while Disney Channel led their listof midsized networks with 37 percent. News and information dominated their other top-fivemajor-network choices -- CNN (59 percent), The Weather Channel (54 percent), A&E (51percent) and CNN Headline News (48 percent). The more entertainment-oriented major netscrowded the lower half of the ops' top-10 list, namely USA Network, ESPN, The HistoryChannel, The Learning Channel and TBS Superstation (the latter chosen by 43 percent ofoperators).

The NBA.com TV Internet site/cable network may soon havesome competition for subscriber eyeballs. Pennsylvania-based HoopsTV.com is making noiseabout turning its 24-hour basketball-online service into a cable network in the nearfuture. The service features original reports and behind-the-scenes stories aboutbasketball "from the playgrounds to the NBA," and it is committing severalmillion dollars to an advertising campaign that will run on the NBA's Turner NetworkTelevision and TBS Superstation telecasts.

By R. Thomas Umstead, from bureau reports.

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