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Through The Wire:  But That Means Nobodys Seen the On-Time Logo

Since Char Beales, CTAM's president and COO, lives andbreathes marketing, the similarities between Bell Atlantic's corporate logo and thecable industry's On-Time Guarantee logo (see pictures) were driving her nuts. "Ifound myself doing a double take every time I see that Bell Atlantic sign," shesaid. Beales must have a stiff neck, since she lives in Bell Atlantic's service area,and the phone company isn't shy about branding. "It's sad, really," anNCTA spokesman sniffed. "They want so much to be like a cable company -- althoughthey know that they can't match our on-time service guarantee -- that they have theirart department make them look like a cable company." Bell Atlantic folks admit thatthey knew about the cable logo, but they didn't think it mattered. A companyspokesman said they hadn't received "any kind of customer comments" aboutthe logo.

John Waller of Waller Capital Corp. thought he was such abig shot, hosting scads of cable executives the night before the March 4 Cable Positivedinner. His wife wasn't impressed, though: She was a volunteer working the big Timemagazine 75th-anniversary bash at Radio City Music Hall the same night. But Waller usedthe tie-in to introduce "Bill Clinton," who'd agreed to drop by theWaller-fest. Clinton -- actually D.C.-area comic Bob Heck -- had been schooled on topicalcable matters, so, in addition to ribbing TCI's Leo J. Hindery Jr. and FalconCable's Marc Nathanson, "Bill" got off a side-splitter about U SWest's and Charter's battle of the Twin Cities. The faux president said heunderstood that some Charter folks were on hand, and that they were disappointed about therecent FCC ruling that may allow U S West to wriggle out of selling Minnesota systems toCharter. "Well, I want you to know that I can change that," not-Clinton said,announcing, "The bidding will start right now." Whereupon one wag in the room --more than likely from Charter -- yelled out, "$30 million!" That's thebreakup fee that U S West will owe to Charter.

Comcast Corp. president Brian Roberts was also a good hostMarch 3, pitching his optimistic vision about the company and the cable industry to 400close friends, analysts and investors at the gleaming new CoreStates Center inPhiladelphia. About the only glitch, one attendee reported, befell those who took a sidetrip to the new QVC digs in distant West Chester. The rain-soaked bus trip took so longthat a planned hour's tour had to be condensed to 15 minutes. And despite therush back to Philly, some weary Wall Streeters were peeved that they missed the 4:45 trainto New York.

Who says the Ultimate Fighting Championshipisn't popular? Snubbed by cable operators over its perceived "violent"nature, Semaphore Entertainment Group's no-holds-barred event remains a staple on thehome-video-sales charts for sports programming. The Ultimate Fighting Championship 4video peaked at the No. 2 position three weeks ago -- 45 weeks after its chart debut -- aheadof videos from sports superstars Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods. Only The Official1997 World Series Video topped the UFC during the period. Now if only SEG canconvince operators and the various state athletic commissions who refuse to sanction thesport of the UFC's growing popularity .

MTV Networks appears to have the best of both worlds -- alow budget and big-name stars such as Courtney Love and Ben Affleck -- for its new movie,tentatively titled 200 Cigarettes.Filming started last week on the streetsof Manhattan's East Village. How could this be? Inside sources say Love andAffleck were so hot to do the film -- which centers on a disastrous 1981 NewYear's Eve party on funky Avenue B and uses lots of period music -- that they agreedto work for scale.

From the audience-participation department: During amonthly on-air "Charlie Chat" with subscribers last week, EchoStarCommunications Corp. kept viewers on their toes with two surprise contests. The firstsubscriber to e-mail the company with the request, "Gimme the shirt off John'sback," won a Dish Network-branded denim shirt like the one that president JohnReardon was wearing during the show. Second prize a few minutes later was the coffeemug that chairman Charlie Ergen was drinking from. With contests like this, EchoStar is inno danger of losing its reputation as a low-cost video provider.

By Kent Gibbons, from bureau reports.