While You Were At the Beach


Welcome back after a well-earned summer holiday. I know many of you were actually at the beach, because I was here in the torpor of Manhattan heat, trying to phone you for comments about stories that you could not have helped me with, as it turned out, because you were away.

So to ease your re-entry, let me help you catch up on some of the headlines that grabbed my eye during the otherwise-dull dog days of August.

If you're in the thick of the 2004 budgeting process, don't even bother to fill in the lines for Western Show booth construction or travel and entertainment. It's a goner.

The show will go on, as planned, for 2003, but the California Cable Television Association announced in your absence that this was indeed the swan song for the Western Show.

You can chalk it up as another sign of the times, or as evidence that industry consolidation and the downturn in the economy have claimed yet another victim.

I'm actually going to miss the plastic and seedy environment of Anaheim, Calif., the show's host city. I, for one, remember how many lousy meals I had with many really good friends.

I'll miss that sense of adventure that always accompanied the show. Whether it was surviving the mini-earthquakes or food poisoning at the White House — a restaurant which had felled many of us — the show was a great bonding experience.

But back to your 2004 budgeting process, a task that only accountants truly enjoy. On your staffing line, put aside some very big bucks into the budget in the event that you need a new CEO.

On an otherwise quiet afternoon Friday in August, when most of the industry was on the beach, Insight president and COO Kim Kelly announced her resignation, saying it was time to pursue other opportunities.

That news came as a bombshell. Kelly had been at Insight for 13 years and was the highest-ranking woman in MSO operations. It's hard to imagine Insight CEO Michael Willner without his right-hand person. They were almost like the Laurel-and-Hardy team of the cable industry, and seemingly just as inseparable.

What did come out in that news story was that Kelly had reportedly been in the running for the top job at Adelphia, a job that Bill Schleyer eventually bagged.

Kelly, who is now taking some time off, won't be available for hire until Nov. 30. She's sticking around to ease the transition and could possibly hang out at Insight for two years as a consultant.

I, for one, hope she stays in cable's fold.

But back to your onerous budget process. Not much happened while you were away on the Vivendi Universal Entertainment front. Although the company — which is owned by a French water firm — has narrowed down the bidders for its diverse assets to two, the company failed to make a decision last week, as was expected.

Vivendi said it was still open to entertain other offers, or to strike strategic alliances with companies like Comcast.

But that's not my problem because it's my turn to finally go to the beach, and get a break from the most boring story of the summer — the vagaries of Vivendi.