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Michael Bolton Does Not Want To Talk to You About Cablevision

Cablevision Systems is begging people to stop harassing Michael Bolton.

Bolton, the schmaltzy love-song warbler who was big in the ’80s, is the MSO’s new pitchman — but not by his choice, according to the conceit of two new spots. The setup: Cablevision’s toll-free number for Optimum, (866) 200- 7151, is one digit off from Bolton’s, (866) 200-7152.

Here he is at home — playing table tennis, sitting at a pottery wheel, shampooing his dog — being interrupted by a constant barrage of callers thinking they’re dialing Cablevision. The call to (in)action: Stop bugging Michael Bolton, and call Cablevision for a great deal on TV, phone and Internet.

Bolton joins the cast of other cable spokespeople currently in rotation, who range from Claire Danes (as the paranoid CIA agent in Showtime’s Homeland) for Time Warner Cable to the chipper, can-do “Mindy” for Mediacom Communications.

Those intrigued enough to dial the Bolton number are greeted by his voice and a prompt to press 1 to order the Optimum triple play (of course) for $84.95 a month. But also: “Press 2 to hear me shred on the guitar. Press 3 to hear how I warm up before a performance. Press 4 to hear me speak Spanish. Press 5 to hear a funny joke.” (The joke: “What do you do when you stub your toe? Call a toe truck!”)

Not everyone is chuckling. “Some of the worst marketing we’ve seen,” BTIG Research analyst Rich Greenfield headlined a research note last week.

The Bolton ads “are at best awkward/ confusing to customers and in no way highlight what is great/ unique about Cablevision, and at worst highlight that Cablevision receives lots of phone calls from customers with problems,” he wrote. In Greenfield’s view, the MSO’s marketing needs an overhaul, with messaging that focuses on broadband as the standout in the bundle.

Asked about Greenfield’s comments, a Cablevision rep provided this statement: “Mr. Greenfield is a frequent and longstanding critic of Cablevision who is entitled to his own opinion, but — once again — we disagree.”

Can the nakedly ironic Bolton spots make the phone ring? Cablevision needs all the mojo it can muster to gain new customers, after a literally disastrous fourth quarter: Partly pinning the blame on Superstorm Sandy, the operator lost 50,000 video subscribers in the period.

The ads were produced by New York agency Mother, which has been working with Cablevision on the Optimum rebranding campaign launched last fall. Sources tell The Wire that Michael Bolton was not harmed in the making of the commercials.