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October 2007 Archives

Turning the Triple Play

October 25, 2007 12:44 PM

Is cable’s triple play losing steam?

That’s a hard question to answer given the lackluster third-quarter results from the nation’s largest cable provider, Comcast. The MSO lost 65,000 basic customers during that quarter. It had lower-than-expected digital video growth but better-than-expected cable modem growth and slightly better-than-expected growth in phone service.

But I think the answer to my question is yes. Comcast Chief Operating Officer Steve Burke told analysts some of the company’s losses were due to attractive marketing campaigns from the telephone companies, which are offering their own version of a triple-play bundle for digital video, phone and high-speed Internet access.

Maybe the heady days of the triple play are indeed over for cable. Customers who bought all three services in a bundle initially enjoyed a price break for the first year, but paid the full fare after that deal expired for those products. The phone companies saw that weakness, and since they got into the game later with their triple-play offers, can price their products more attractively.

Burke told analysts that Comcast would tweak how it sells its services, aggressively offering two-product and one-product packages to spur growth. I think that’s a smart move, don’t you?

Another Reason to Go to Blockbuster

October 23, 2007 1:11 PM

I’m now boycotting movie theaters owned by CineMedia because they air 20 minutes of commercials before show time, and I’m not counting the trailers for upcoming films that are in themselves annoying enough.

So we went to the opening of George Clooney’s new flick “Michael Clayton,” which was appearing at a Regal Cinema—owned by CineMedia. We got there early wanting to get good seats and were subjected to the longest pod on the planet. It was sooo long that one moviegoer, me, screamed out, “Enough already,” and I got a round of applause.

We didn’t pay to watch commercials -- how sneaky.

According to Advertising Age, the Cinema Ad Council reported that ad spending in theaters was up 15 percent in 2006 to $455.6 million. That’s one statistic I unfortunately believe.

Blockbuster, here I come.

Today’s Laugh: Colbert’s Presidential Stunt

October 18, 2007 1:44 PM

Comedy Central prankster Stephen Colbert declared during his show Tuesday night that he was going to take a shot at the presidency, running as both a Democrat and a Republican in his native state of South Carolina.

Hey, why not? We all know it’s just a ratings stunt, if in fact he even meets the Nov. 1 deadline to get on the state’s ballot. He can make hay with this attention-getting ploy to push sales for his new book well in time for holiday gift-giving.

If nothing else, his short-lived presence in the political arena could provide some needed comic relief during this oh-so prolonged race for the spoils in 2008. Soon, and probably already, this will go down in history as just another New York minute. But if he pursues this, hopefully Colbert will shed some light on the real presidential hopefuls, and not just serve as an amusing but annoyingly ego-driven distraction.

Meanwhile, does anyone remember how long Pat Paulsen, a comic from “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour,” lasted in his run for the presidency in 1968, and if it made any difference in the show’s ratings back then?

CNN Paves Way for Campbell Brown

October 16, 2007 3:04 PM

I see that CNN will move “Lou Dobbs Tonight” from its 6 p.m. slot to 7 p.m. to provide a strong lead-in for former NBC anchor Campbell Brown, who joins CNN Nov. 5.

Part of the musical chairs game afoot also involves the creation of a three-hour block of “The Situation Room,” leading into Dobbs’ new and later time slot.

Brown will be filling the low-rated, 8 p.m. slot vacated by Paula Zahn. “Lou Dobbs Tonight” is CNN’s highest-rated show, second only to “Larry King Live,” which airs at 9 p.m., so Brown will be buffered by the net’s two most popular shows.

The New York Times says CNN is taking a risk, potentially losing rabid viewers for Dobbs who is passionate about immigration issues, still a red-hot topic for him, and apparently many Americans.

Personally, I don’t think it’s a risk at all. Viewers might actually prefer the later time for Dobbs, and will find him if the change is well promoted.

So is CNN risking too much in order to seemingly buffer Brown? I say not at all. Dobbs’ ratings will increase, is my bet. Who watches television at 6 p.m. (EST)?

In Memory of Cox’s Jim Robbins

October 11, 2007 12:24 PM

I got that early-morning bugle call today to hear that Jim Robbins, former CEO of Cox Communications, died last evening at his home in Westport, Mass., after losing a protracted battle with an aggressive form of cancer that had spread to his liver and brain.

He was only 65 and had retired from Cox two years ago, leaving behind a most impressive track record that I don’t need to elaborate on in this space, because other journalists have done a fine job of summarizing his numerous personal accomplishments.

Instead, I’d like to share my personal story about a man who let me enter his inner world, and I thank him for his friendship. I last spoke with him this past April. He called me to express his condolences over the sudden death of my 5-year-old yellow Lab, Lucy. Jim also had a 5-year old female yellow lab named Lucy. Both dogs were obedience school dropouts, and we often commiserated over their misadventures. So he gave me the name of his breeder in southeastern Massachusetts, and now I have another yellow Lab, Maizey. Jim would not be surprised to hear that the spirit of Lucy lives on. This one, too, is a hellion.

Not only was I struck by his sympathy about my dog, but also the timing of that call. He had been fighting cancer for a while, having been treated by oncologists at Emory in Atlanta. He was now driving in Boston, and cussing at traffic, on his way to Massachusetts General Hospital looking for other treatments. We decided it would be better to talk when he wasn’t behind the wheel, and he later called me again that same weekend. This time we talked about him, and he said he was considering heading next to Sloan-Kettering in New York to study his options.

Over the summer I got an e-mail or two from him. He still had great interest in the business.

Just last week I heard from one of his many friends that he had taken a turn for the worse. Today is a day to mourn a man who has been a role model and friend to many. I hope you take some time here to share your own fond memories about a man who touched so many of our lives, professionally and personally.

Tonight the Cable Center is holding its Hall of Fame Dinner in Denver. I join you in spirit to toast our good friend and send him off with a final hurrah. Godspeed, “Big Jim.”

I Beg to Differ

October 8, 2007 1:16 PM

I don’t agree at all with the TVWeek editorial this week that suggests it’s a bad idea for the National Cable & Telecommunications Association to try to combine many of the various trade organizations events into two weeks in spring and fall.

I think it’s a swell idea, and inevitable. First of all this meeting Oct. 22 in New York getting all the groups together will not result in a decision; it likely will be just another step in what has been a seven-year dialogue among the groups.

Here’s what I would do. I would combine the NCTA national show with the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers under one roof. Why? The NCTA, from an exhibitor’s point of view, is by and large a tech fest that largely gets repeated another month or so later with the SCTE show. And the big-ticket item is the expense of having a booth on the floors of both venues. That’s a no-brainer.

Every one of the organizations has become a hydra-headed entity. Take Women in Cable & Telecommunications. It has a lunch in New York during Diversity Week in September, then holds a black-tie gala in Washington two months later in November and has a program running during spring break in New York.

CTAM, by contrast, has already made the first step. It’s moving its annual Summit from the summer to the fall and has already folded its old digital conference into the Summit. Good move. CTAM could further tighten its belt by folding its winter research event into the Summit as a separate track.

And then there’s the Cable Center holding its Hall of Fame dinner this week in Denver. Years ago that dinner was held at the NCTA show, and that’s where it belongs, especially because Denver is no longer the hub of cable, but a ghost town with a museum that few in this business actually believe should exist.

There are other ways to skin this cat. The new venues for cable operators are now the Consumer Electronics Show and wireless shows. Couldn’t cable find a way to piggyback onto some of those shows that are the venues of the future? I rest my case.

NYC Hacks Protest GPS/Videos in Cabs

October 5, 2007 12:32 PM

Here we go again.

A group of Big Apple taxi cab drivers said they would go on strike again—a second time—to protest a new ruling that would require them to install a GPS system that takes credit cards and allows passengers to watch videos in the back seat.

Many NYC cabbies already have the devices and my pals are divided on whether this is a good idea. Some cab drivers say they dislike the idea because they cannot control the sound levels, the passengers do, and that it adds to their existing stress of careening through crowded Manhattan. Passengers can see ads of stores on their routes, news clips and weather updates.

Other cabbies have said they don’t like the Big Brother aspect, having their every trip monitored.

Here’s my own two cents: Why provide more distractions for drivers who contribute to their own stress by constantly talking on their cell phones while driving, leading to accidents.

As a taxi cab passenger, I’m doing the same thing, talking on my mobile phone and I think that’s enough din for anyone to endure.

So I side with the cabbies here. Do you?

Jury Rules Against MSG

October 2, 2007 12:41 PM

Today in a highly publicized court case the jury ruled against Cablevision owner Madison Square Garden and its chairman Jim Dolan saying MSG must pay $11.6 million in punitive damages to Anucha Browne Sanders.

Sanders, a former New York Knicks executive, was fired last year and she in turn sued MSG and Knicks coach Isiah Thomas $10 million for harassment. Today, while the jury found Thomas guilty of harassment, he’s not being slapped with punitive charges, instead Cablevision and Dolan are paying the tab, for now.

I don’t get it. If Thomas was guilty of misconduct as the jury ruled, why isn’t he being punished along with MSG?

Both Thomas and MSG will appeal the ruling.

Am I missing something here?

Why is Thomas getting off without paying a nickel?

But I do agree that if this conduct happened under Dolan’s watch, he, too, is responsible.

Weigh in with your ruling.