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And Cable Created the Earth

April 17, 2006 12:00 AM

Self-congratulatory corporate videos are de rigueur at trade conventions, but the big-budget, six-minute epic that opened the general session at last week's National Show in Atlanta was so unintentionally high camp that attendees couldn't help but laugh out loud. Titled "Cable: A Great American Success Story," the video told the story of cable, starting with the industry's vintage stock-footage roots. "She was born from a ragtag group of dreamers," the gravel-voiced narrator intoned. "Scrappers who felt there should be more coming from the TV than three repetitive channels with a scratchy, pasty picture." Other gems followed: "Cable. She succeeded the way America did." "Cable made a simple square box into a life-breathing source of wisdom." "Cable didn't bring us the computer: Cable made it sing." Then the video's arch-villain is presented: phone companies, which are entering the video delivery game, here depicted with Orwellian black-and-white images of evil-looking rotary phones. "How many years were we forced to use a dreadfully slow rotary dial? How many decades before we got a phone in any color but black? Gray thinking, zero innovation, just plodding through life." The video concludes in a sleekly furnished Home of the Future, where a family in matching slick black jumpsuits enjoys cable-fed videoconferencing. A National Cable & Telecommunications Association spokesperson said the video is part of a multimillion-dollar, multiyear pro-cable campaign and is being shown at industry events and in meetings with public officials. See the video at NCTA.com and salute cable in all "her" glory. -James Hibberd

Star Search, 2006 Style

The masterminds of such riveting do-it-yourself online fare as pushing a buddy down a flight of stairs in a shopping cart, stealing food from a Taco Bell drive-through or lip-synching a pop song in their apartment could become the next big TV stars. With the rise of online homemade video outlets like YouTube.com and Break.com, some cable networks have begun to scout online user-generated videos for talent. For instance, in early April Tony DiSanto, executive VP of series development and animation for MTV and MTV2, informed his programming development staff that they should spend a half-hour each day scanning user-generated sites for the cream of the crop. "As a development executive you have to keep your ears to the pavement, and this is now one of the areas you have to pay attention to, just like going to comedy clubs, listening to music, hearing pitches. Now you have to look at the laptop on your desk as a daily avenue to seek stuff out." MTV has already mined some online talent. MTV2's "The Andy Milonakis Show" grew out of a homemade Web show two years ago. -Daisy Whitney

Candidate Matthews?

Is MSNBC and syndicated talk show host Chris Matthews looking to add the title U.S. Senator to his resume? You might have thought so after reading a banner headline (with no story) last week on the political Web site HuffingtonPost.com. According to the site, Mr. Matthews, formerly a speechwriter in the Carter White House, a Senate staffer and a top aide to the late former U.S. Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill, was considering an independent run for Senate in Pennsylvania. Other political sites and blogs picked up the story, pointing out he'd be a pro-choice alternative to the likely Democratic nominee Bob Casey and Republican incumbent Sen. Rick Santorum. Some suggested the bid might help his brother, Republican Jim Matthews, who is running for lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania. The normally garrulous Mr. Matthews gave an uncharacteristically brief response through an MSNBC spokeswoman on the subject: "I'm not running." Blink thinks the pay cut alone makes the move unlikely. -Christopher Lisotta