Through The Wire: Not Masters of Their Domain


OK, one last Seinfeld story ...

A construction crew for the East Bay Municipal Utility District in Berkeley, Calif., tooka hefty chunk out of TCI's trunka few weeks back, knocking out 14,000 customers.

The timing? Only a few hours before the last episode of Seinfeld. The outagetriggered a run on antennae, and it wasn't repaired until after the "PeacockNetwork's" Must-See event. TCI asked NBC if it could rerun the sitcom locally afterthe plant was repaired, but the network refused. (NBC hadn't yet revealed that it had arerun plan of its own.) TCI said it will credit customers for the time of the outage, butit did not respond to inquiries on whether it will seek compensation from the utility.

Desperation move? The annual war of words during theupfront selling season seems to be escalating this spring. ABC, in a newspaper ad that ranlast week, targeted the pitch being made by many cable networks -- namely, that moreadvertisers will be moving millions of ad dollars from the broadcast nets to cable. In anad headlined, "Are you stillwrestling with your mix?" ABC askedthose advertisers, "Thinking of shifting addollars from broadcast to cable?Take a look at the top shows on cable." The list mainly included wrestling shows onTBS, TNT and USA, in boldface, capital letters. That ad's "a great way to letadvertisers know that they can get great delivery of men 18 to 34 with wrestling," aTurner spokesman crowed. ABC aimed another ad at NBC.

He didn't really say that there were dark and stormy cloudsover Little Rock, Ark., did he? Naaah ... but Willard Scott wanna-be Newt Gingrich didhave fun when he delivered a "Weekend Outlook" forecast for The Weather Channel recently.The Speaker of the House was visiting the network, which is headquartered in his homedistrict, near Atlanta, when he made his meteorological debut. Never lacking inself-confidence, the glib politico stayed true to form by waving off cue cards and anearplug to master control for his three-minute stint. His coach, TWC supervisor MarnyStanier, was impressed, calling Gingrich a quick study. "He put his finger right onIdaho," she said, "and not many people can do that right off."

The Orioles are sinking like a lead balloon in the A.LEast, but at least two people in Baltimore are having a good year. The Wire congratulatesComcast Cablevision of Maryland area marketing director Mike Ortman and marketing managerMark Watt for being named the MSO's "Marketers of the Year" at Comcast'sannual retreat in Florida two weeks ago. The pair sell cable services to about 300,000subs outside of Baltimore.

During the International Radio & Television SocietyFoundation awards luncheon last week, Geraldine Laybourne, president of Disney/ABC CableNetworks, presented one of the four awards to TCI president and COO Leo J. Hindery Jr. for"outstanding achievement in the electronic media." Before doing so, she referredto his recent Cable Positive award, saying, "I'm no Sharon Stone, and I'm notgoing to call you Leonardo!" Laybourne then said she and Hindery have known eachother since kindergarten, adding, "I know you're sitting there thinking, 'She can'tbe as old as Leo!"

By Charles Paikert, from bureau reports.