Through The Wire: Theres Lots of Fiber in His Diet

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In these trying times, when villains like America Online's Steve Case and RCN's Dave McCourt are trying to crackopen cable's proprietary networks or overbuild its cushy monopolies, the industry isbadly in need of a superhero. Well, one has arrived. As the Marvel Comics cover line says,"He is known as CABLE." This broadband ball of fire's a 23rdcentury mutant who comes back to the 1990s to use his "abilities of telepathy andtelekinesis to fight for a better tomorrow." At the end of the latest issue, Cablerouses himself from an enforced state of suspended animation, ready to rumble.Rate-regulation sunset may have that effect, too.

Lost amid the hoopla over Comcast'sbuying out Colorado-based MediaOne Group was an unrelated deal that couldmake cable in Denver a three-horse race. The new entry would be Northern StatesPower Co., a Minnesota electrical and natural-gas utility that is purchasing itsColorado counterpart, New Century Energies.

What's intriguing is that an NSPC subsidiary, SerenInnovations, already offers cable, Internet and phone services toAT&T Broadband & Internet Services subscribers in St. Cloud, Minn., andit is planning to overbuild AT&T Broadband in Walnut Creek and Concord, Calif.

The logical question: Will Seren eye Denver, whereAT&T Broadband and U S West are preparing to duke it out? NSPC officialsaren't saying. Our spies, however, tell us that weeks before the NCE deal wasunveiled, Seren was already poking around for information about the "regulatory layof the land" in Denver. "So, stay tuned, man," says a city official."You never know what next week is going to bring."

If nothing else, this year's Peabody Awardswere proof that broadcast-network coverage of the Monica Lewinsky scandal was a biggerwaste of airtime than 30 years of Gilligan's Island reruns. How else doyou explain the lone Peabody for coverage of Bill Clinton's travails going to veteranjournalist Linda Ellerbee, whose contribution involved explaining the impeachment processto children during a special edition of her Nick News program on Nickelodeon? We wonder what network execsthought when they heard Ellerbee's coverage described as "the most insightfultelling of the story to children and adults alike."

Time Warner Sports has televised boxingpromoter Don King's last two major fight cards despite his relationship with TimeWarner's rival, Showtime Event Television.

So what does Showtime do? It will televise a proposedJune 26 bout promoted by Time Warner staple Bob Arum. Arum will jump ship todistribute his bantamweight champion, Johnny Tapia, via PPV with SET, marking the firsttime in years that SET has done PPV-boxing business with someone other than King.

The big, bad TV networks are giving the mobile-home crowd abreak. Last month, with the House Commerce Committee debating satellite legislation, Rep.Heather Wilson (R-N.M.) offered an amendment designed to ensure that home-dish-equippedrecreational vehicles would not be cut off from distant-network feeds of ABC, CBS, NBC andFox. The broadcast lobby had no problem supporting Wilson's amendment after sheincluded language ensuring that the definition of an RV did not include any residentialmanufactured home. Wilson, in her second term in Congress, took some gentle ribbingfor the amendment. Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) got a laugh at one point by referring toit as the "Wilson Winnebago amendment."

The regional sports networks didn't escape the wrathof Melissa. The nasty computer virus that has wreaked havoc throughout the world'scomputer networks infiltrated the e-mail system at SportsChannel Floridaearly last week, sending the network's programming and public-relations departmentsinto a frenzy. Fortunately, the network reported no lasting damage from the virus,but as of last Thursday, Melissa still hadn't been completely destroyed.


By Joe Estrella, from bureau reports.

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