Through The Wire: Showtime Croaks Over Encore Claim

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Who says there wasn't any action at the NCTA Show lastweek? Showtime and Encore Media Group had a nice little dust-up -- right in thehotel rooms of Atlanta attendees. EMG struck first, distributing an oversized colorbrochure tagged "Look Who's the New #2." The inside spread showed a frogfrom a Starz! and Encore block jumping over a frog sitting on a Showtime and The MovieChannel block. The latter was subheaded "14.9 million pay units" while theformer was heading for a spot labeled "17.1 million pay units." Showtime struckback the next morning, slipping red fliers under hotel doors with a crossed-out "nofrog" circle and the headline "When you don't have the most theatricals andyou have nothing else to talk about, all you can do is croak!" Showtime went on toaccuse EMG of "gross distortions" by including Encore units in its figures,asserting that Encore was not a premium service but a "library service." RepliedEMG chief John Sie, "Forget technical definitions. Operators don't perceiveEncore as any less of a premium service than TMC."

Leave it to a bunch of cable engineers to take literallythe notion of getting bombed ...

A gaggle of senior engineering execs whipped up a surprise60th birthday roast for Rogers Cablesystems senior VP Nick Hamilton-Piercy at the show.Turns out that Nick liked to blow things up in his youth. So the engineers brought along,in separate brown bags, all the necessary items to make a bomb that could, if mixedproperly, blow the lid off the Omni Center: sugarcane, ammonium nitrate, sterno,camphor and mineral oil, to name a few. A delighted Hamilton-Piercy posed for pictures,got his fingerprints all over everything and generally yukked it up. That is, until hestarted to wonder about what to do with all the ingredients. "It's not generallya good idea to walk down the street with the makings of a bomb in a bunch of brownbags," Hamilton-Piercy said the next morning. So, he left everything on therestaurant chair. "I keep waiting to get a call that I need to come down to thestation," he said.

Turns out Adelphia chairman John Rigas is a good luckcharm. The new owner of the NHL's Buffalo Sabres told of how, prior to the thirdgames of the Sabres playoff game against the Philadelphia Flyers, Czech-born right wingMiroslav Satan and goaltender Dominik Hasek asked him to rub their sticks for luck.Naturally, Satan scored twice and the Sabres won. And naturally, Rigas is now on the hookfor rubbing duty for as long as the Sabres, who play Montreal next, are in the playoffs.

It's tough to get your name around if you don'thave the millions of dollars of a Fox or Discovery for a start-up. Struggling networkslike, say, the Puppy Channel, have to resort to guerrilla tactics at a cable show.Puppy's backers plastered elevators at the Westin Peachtree Plaza (possibly the worsthotel in America, by our standards and everyone else we met) with magnets bearing theirlogo. Tucked away in a corner, Puppy's booth didn't have much floor traffic, butat least people were talking about the channel.


By R. Thomas Umstead, from bureau reports.

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