On Welshmen and Waverlys


Things I learned reading the papers this week: Howard Stringer sounds more and more like a true voice of reason. In a few choice words, Sony's American operations chief can say with impact what Barry Diller has apparently been trying to get across for months about how bad it is that a few mega-corporations are ending up owning most of the media production and distribution outlets in this country. Here's how he was quoted in The New York Times last Monday:

"I am with Barry a little bit about all this consolidation. If there is one reason why a comedy hasn't been created on network television in the last five years, it's because each network is trying to do it with one voice, and I just find that sort of mildly insane."

Here's what Times
man David Kirkpatrick said was Sumner Redstone's response, "Diller and Stringer are some of the most rational people I know, but that doesn't mean they can't make a mistake." Who sounds more rational to you?

Also in last week's Times: Cablevision — which months ago faced up to reality and started shutting down its New York-area The Wiz consumer-electronics stores and Clearview movie theaters — still has a few surprises left, excluding the big DBS flier. Its IFC unit is fixing up the run-down Waverly Theater movie house in Greenwich Village, planning to make it an indie-films showcase.

While the Times
mildly chided IFC for opting to give the Waverly a "bland" new name, IFC Center, overall the plan is a big positive. (In my own Manhattan neighborhood, the closed Clearview turned into yet another chain drugstore, to our chagrin.) It's even patriotic, as the Waverly has been closed since a couple of weeks after Sept. 11, 2001.

Things I learned reading what's in Multi this week: MTV Networks' affiliate chief Nicole Browning, a late entry to the roundtable group whose lively conversation starts on page 1, can more than hold her own with the loquacious likes of ESPN's Sean Bratches and Fox Cable's Lindsay Gardner. So as not to spoil any punchlines, let's just say peel an eye for a reference to The Real World.

And what they have to say about "most favored nation" clauses toward the end of the story was something I haven't seen in print before, except coming from "small" operators like Rocco Commisso.

I also learned that some networks still pay for lower channel placement (see page 20), even with the advent of interactive program guides and multi-hundred-channel lineups that tend to put like networks together. That was a little surprising.

And how about Cable One polling hundreds of people every month in its service areas, taking their pulse on digital video recording, digital channels and anything else under the sun (page 44)? You'd think CEO Tom Might and VP Jerry McKenna were running for office. Actually, if they were, they'd have a pretty good platform: 32% digital penetration less than three years into that deployment is powerful validation of their approach.

And, though the story doesn't mention it, their "no-rate-increase-in-2003" campaign pledge is another winner. I'd wager that scored high in polls.