Through The Wire: Give Me Liberty, But What Is It?


Outgoing E! chief Lee Masters took the jibes at his roastlast week at the Western Show in good fun. During a tape on Masters' career, done in theform of E! True Hollywood Story, Howard Stern was among the celebrities making funof Masters' new gig.  Stern complained that he had never heard of Liberty Media. "Today,Liberty: Tomorrow, the Food Network," Stern said of Masters' career move.

But Masters wasn't the only one to get good-naturedly needled in front of the cablehonchos gathered to pay homage to him.  FoxFamily Channel president Rich Cronin was in his usual fine form, making fun of thename of fellow roast-master Gerry Laybourne's new women's network, Oxygen. "When Ithink of gas, I think of women," Cronin said, adding that Laybourne has two digitalnetworks in the works: Nitrous Oxide and Methane.

At virtually every cable convention where all sorts of newtechnologies are talked up, it seems that there are gremlins at work. At the Western Show-- the theme of which was, "Cable Clicks" -- one MSO panelist at a session lastWednesday ("Marketing to the New Consumer") had to wing it when his laptopcomputer didn't click. Joe Rooney, executive director of marketing at Cox Communications of Orange County, Calif., prefaced hisremarks by saying, "Imagine you're pinch-hitting [as a panelist] ... and yourcomputer says, 'You must reinstall Windows,'" just before starting his presentation.

There wasn't much in the way of hard news at last week'sWestern Show, so the usual rumors cropped up, only to be shot down by the partiesinvolved. One that swept through the Convention Center like a cyclone last Thursday wasthat the Discovery Networks-CBS Eye on People partnership had shattered. When aWire reporter dutifully rushed to the Discovery booth to check out the rumor, he foundanother reporter asking the same question. Discovery's calm, but amused, response:"Nothing has changed."

Back in April, the Wire recounted the sad story of CATA president Steve Effros and his fat-pipe withdrawalafter Media General Cable removed the cable modem from his Fairfax, Va., office at the endof a market trial. Well, he's found a temporary solution: anADSL connection from Bell Atlantic Corp. Effrossays it's not as great as his cable modem was, but it's better than dial-up. He's not sosure that it's a great business for the telco, though. So far, he reports, Bell Atlantichas had to make 11 truck rolls to clean up the phone line sufficiently and make theservice work right.

Cue cards took on an added dimension during a pressconference at the Western Show. While the good-intentioned CEO extolled the many benefitsof his company's service during an informal chitchat, his PR man was caught in the act,holding up suggested talking points behind the backs of reporters. Either the wordswere too small to read, or they were the wrong words to say. Or, more likely, they wereill-timed and inappropriate. Whatever the case, it prompted an immediate snarly reactionfrom the CEO toward his overzealous handler, who limped away, cue cards between his legs.

By R. Thomas Umstead, from bureau reports.