Through The Wire: Sing Us A Song, Youre the Cable Guy

Piano man Billy Joel isn't usuallyplaced under the category of thespian, but he'll be the subject of Bravo's April 26 Inside theActor's Studio. How did that happen? At Bravo's upfront last week, GM EdCarroll explained that Joel called up and said he was a fan of the series andwanted to be on it. Bravo officials mulled the offer, recalling that non-actors such asArthur Penn have appeared on Studio, and all agreeing that Joel was a"creative" force. But Carroll said the deal was OKed when Joel said,"I'll bring my piano, and we said, Done.'"

AT&T Corp. (opens in new tab) chairmanC. Michael Armstrong isn't letting any grass grow under his feet in his bid to become thenation's Cable Guy. Attended by an phalanx of AT&T honchos that reportedly includedlong-distance czar John Zeglis, Armstrong jetted to Denver last week for two days ofbriefings on the status and future goals of his latest creation, AT&T Broadband &Internet Services.

Not surprisingly, the company's PR machine spent most its time downplaying Armstrong'spresence in town as "routine," and just part of a regular round of monthlyoperational meetings. "Must be a slow news day," groused one AT&T flakwhen asked about the gathering.

This particular gathering, however, had an interesting conclusion, as Armstrong andAT&T BIS president Leo J. Hindery left immediately afterward for parts unknown toparticipate in the National Cable TelevisionAssociation's In The Trenches Program. That's where cable industry leadersspend a day working in the field doing cable installations or upgrades. According to NCTA,the AT&T honchos visited CSRs in Denver, sparing subscribers the agony of watchingthem, say, try to install a digital cable box.

Cable network execs love to dress up and play act for theirupfront presentations, and new ComedyCentral chief Larry Divney was no exception last week in the Big Apple. Atthe presentation, the Div-meister was credited with instituting "Dress as YourMom," "Dress as Super Fly" and "Don't-dress, period" days atthe network. In a film clip he was shown clad as a woman, in a"gangster-lean" outfit, and nude with his desk strategically hidinghis precious personal assets. Jon Stewart, the cutie-patootie new host of The DailyShow, was a trooper and showed up even though he was suffering the flu which hedescribed in sickening detail. Stewart, pale and feverish, still managed to get some bellylaughs from the media-buying audience.

A graduate student at Yale Business School buttonholed EchoStar Communications Corp. chairmanCharlie Ergen about a job at the SkyFORUM conference in New York last week. The man seemeda little deflated to hear about the limited salary and benefits offered by the DBScompany, but brightened considerably when Ergen mentioned stock options. Given therecent meteoric rise in EchoStar's share prices, it doesn't take the Yalie's MBA torealize how much stock options sweeten the deal.

Wanted: one state-wide video service to program to a trulycaptive audience. That might be the heading for a recent request for proposals issued bythe state of Pennsylvania, which is interested in interconnecting its prison system. Sofar,operators aren't real interested in the project, according to BillCologie, president of Pennsylvania Cable &Telecommunications Association. The RFP "was horrendous," he said,seeking a unified channel line-up, even though multiple broadcast affiliates serve thestate. It also seeks the statewide delivery of a regional sports network, which is notavailable. Also, five remote prisons would have to be wired. "They have to figure outwhat they really want," Cologie said.

By Linda Haugsted, from bureau reports.