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Squirrels, Possums, Critters, Oh My!

Through the years, faithful Wire readers have read of damage caused to domestic cable systems by wire-munching squirrels. Now comes a four-footed sign that Australia, home of the 2000 Summer Olympics, is catching up to the U.S. in this regard. A recent issue of New Scientist magazine correlated a drop in the possum population Down Under to the construction of cable systems. Because cable plant is lower than other power lines, the marsupials use their prehensile tails to grab the plant and, zap: instant service outage. We can see the marketing now: "With every installation, a free Cable Crispy Critter Cookbook." (Dear animal lovers: The preceding was a joke!)

- - - When National Geo-graphic Channel U.S. sent out its announcement on Rich Goldfarb being named senior vice president of media sales, it included a photo of Goldfarb holding National Geographic's trademark yellow border to frame his face. Previously, the company has borrowed that familiar border from its magazine for use in a recent television-ad campaign, and even a calendar. Now, it seems that it's taken branding even into the realm of press-release photos.

- - - Kaitz wants you! The Walter Kaitz Foundation is looking for a few good men and women to volunteer as "ushers," "greeters" and "general orientation assistants" for its Sept. 20 dinner at the New York Hilton. The vols would need to be available for two orientation meetings a few days before the dinner and to arrive early for the big bash. The call went out via e-mail last week to the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau and such companies as Cablevision Systems Corp., Comcast Corp., Comedy Central, Home Box Office, Rainbow Media Holdings Inc., Scripps Networks, Time Warner Cable and USA Networks Inc. Prospective volunteers should contact Michelle Pascal at Noelle Elaine Media Consultants (212-370-5483).

- - - With flight delays at an all-time high, some travelers stuck in airports may take solace from CNN Airport Network-that is, if you like football. The National Football League is giving CNN Airport Network 70 games free-of-charge this season, including the Super Bowl and the Pro Bowl. CBS allows CNN to run its games, and it even allows the network to pre-empt CBS ads for its own. But Fox is holding out for the second year in a row, citing competition CNN may pose for NFL games shown on Fox Sports Sky Box in a few U.S. airports. "At the end of the day, the unfortunate part of it is that maybe there are some games that should be there that aren't. But maybe equally important, Fox isn't getting their branding, their promotion and their commercials on the air for all of those fans who are sitting there watching," NFL senior vice president of broadcasting Dennis Lewin said.

- - - Maybe they should've called it the Republican Cable Convention? Outside the GOP's convention site in Philadelphia, there was the signage, "Comcast. Proud Host." Inside, the opening night's coverage on PBS and C-SPAN included Ben Stein in a dry takeoff on his own Win Ben Stein's Money-with the onetime Nixon speechwriter even slipping in a few blatant plugs for Comedy Central. Cable probably won't be that visible when the Democrats convene this week at the Staples Center in Los Angeles-adjacent to where the Western Show will again be held. But Lifetime and Prudential Insurance Co. do plan convention tie-in events, starting today (Aug. 14) with "Salute to Women Elected Officials.and the Women Who Elect Them" at the Wilshire Grand Hotel.

- - - While X-rated fare has been credited with driving penetration levels of new technology formats ranging from the VCR to the Internet, don't look for heavy demand from the early adopters of high-definition television. It's not that they're too highbrow for that sort of thing. "There's a level of detail HDTV will show that would be a turnoff somehow," said Gary Shapiro, president of the Consumer Electronics Association, speaking at a Kagan Seminars conference last week in New York.