Posts Tagged ‘Cablevision’

QVC Jewelry Queen Joan Rivers Gives Us A Peek Behind Her Comedy Mask In Film ‘A Piece of Work’

July 4, 2010

Joan dishes in her new documentary

This weekend we went to see “Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work” during a matinee in Montclair, N.J., at the Clairidge Theater (owned by Jimmy Dolan’s Cablevision). It was just us and one other person the the audience.

Of course, as The Homeshoppingista, we’d hoped that maybe the movie would show Rivers in her role as a very successful jewelry vendor on QVC. Well ladies, if you’re looking for any insidery stuff on the home shopping end, you’re out of luck.

There are a couple of references to Rivers having a QVC stop on her schedule, and it looked like she was wearing her QVC jewelry, but that was about it. She had on a gold disc necklace on a leather cord in one scene of the documentary that had QVC written all over it.

The movie included Rivers’ triuimphant win on Donald Trump’s “Celebrity Apprentice.”

Call us naive but we were surprised that Rivers was so blue, profane, in her stand-up routine. Her joke about her darling daughter Melissa being offered $400,000 to appear topless on the cover of “Playboy” really did kind of shock us.

We did laugh out loud at her joke about how wearing a tampon makes Victoria Beckham look fat.

We like Rivers, so we had no ax to grind coming into the theater. We think she came out appearing flawed, like every human being, but also likable and vulnerable in the movie.

Since Rivers seems so thick-skinned, it’s fascinating to hear her talk about being worried about reviews of her acting and her dread of the nasty plastic-surgery jokes that will be lobbed at her during her “Comedy Central” roast. Rivers, looking truly afraid, tells Kathy Griffin, who hosted the Comedy Central Roast, essentially says that although she hates the idea of doing the roast, “It’s a lot of money.”

Again, here’s how stupid we are: We didn’t know Comedy Central pays the people that are skewered on their “roasts.” We thought it was supposed to be an honor, and the roastees would not be paid.

Rivers also talked about her fear of being seen without makeup. We can surely sympathize.

“It’s very scary wheh you see yourself without any makeup,” Rivers said, and that’s how we feel about being seen sans lipgloss and mascara.

Yet the movie’s opening scene is a closeup of Rivers getting her makeup done, so we pretty much see her bare-faced. We guess she faced that fear head-on for the movie.

Rivers also rehashes the story about how her mentor, Johnny Carson, never spoke to her again after she told him she was going to do a late-night show for Fox.

Maybe if she had given him a heads-up BEFORE she took the gig he would have been more understanding, and not felt bushwhacked. Those Scorpios, like Carson, don’t like to feel betrayed. Her Fox show, produced by her husband Edgar, was a disaster. Shortly after the shows demise, Edgar committed suicide.

The doc’s takeaway is that Rivers is a workaholic, isolated and lonely. Yet she is often in the Big Apple tabloids, making the scene with the hoity-toity Park Avenue social crowd. You don’t see any of that in the film. We wish some of it had been.

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Cablevision’s Vilification of Scripps Networks Exec Ken Lowe, One Of The Smartest, Classiest Guys In The Cable Industry

January 9, 2010

Scripps CEO Ken Lowe, Cablevision's villain

There are so many things we should be doing now, rather than blogging. We have to update our resume for a job we’re applying for. We have press releases to write for Saint Barnabas. We have freelance work from three different people, two of the assignments related to health, stacked up. We have to take our Christmas tree down. And we should be cruising PlentyofFish.com for a man.

But we have to write about Ken Lowe. Lowe, CEO of Scripps Networks Interactive, has been named in the full-page ads that Cablevision has been running in papers like The New York Times and the Manhattan tabloids. The ads — and Scripps is running ads too — are part of the week-long war over fees between the cable company and Scripps, which led to Food Network and HGTV being pulled from 3.1 million homes in the Tri-State area.

Scripps wants a rate increase for its channels, and Cablevision says the ask is unreasonable. Programmers and distributors fight all the time, but it’s fairly rare to see a CEO singled out the way Cablevision has singled out Lowe, kind of making the business battle personal.

Cablevision’s ads claim that “Lowe is demanding a $20 million rate increase for Food Network and HGTV.” It makes it sound like Lowe is right at the negotiating table, pounding his fist. That’s not how it works.

We know all is fair in love and war, and Scripps had celebrity chef Bobby Flay doing anti-Cablevision radio spots for it, but the attack on Lowe seem like a low blow, no pun intended, by the cable company. The ads cast Lowe as the nasty, money-grubbing bogeyman in all of this.

We’ve known Lowe for almost two decades, from reporting on the cable industry. He was always one of the smartest, nicest, classiest, frankest, friendliest programmers we have ever met. He’s well-respected in the media business. His background was radio, and his college roommate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was Rick Dees, the well-known disc jockey.

A veteran broadcaster working at Scripps, Lowe founded and launched HGTV in 1994, and managed Food Network, which Scripps holds a majority stake in. He built an empire of lifestyle cable networks, but admitted to my former editor, Marianne Paskowski, that he once feared being fired by Scripps.

We remember going with Paskowski to interview Lowe at a cable trade show. It was fun, he was bright, and it didn’t hurt that Lowe, now 59, was easy on the eyes. We know that’s unprofessional to say, but what the hell.

He is a Southerner — we hear he was raised on a tobacco farm — but Southern charm doesn’t usually work with us. Folks from New Jersey are “loud and proud,” and don’t beat around the bush. There is no gentility or many manners in the New York metro region.

We often say that we’d rather have someone tell us the truth than be nice to our face, and then talk about us behind our backs. And since we’ve been stabbed in the back by a Southerner who had lots of folksy stories and an accent, we know what we’re talking about.

We don’t know how Lowe treated his employees — we did hear he liked to send e-mails at 2 in the morning. We hear Scripps doesn’t pay producers much. But with us, Lowe was always a pleasure to interview and deal with.

Scripps’ battle with Cablevision relates to the seeds of Food Network, we believe. As we remember, Food Network was free to cable operators for a long period, it may have been 10 years, surviving just by selling advertising. Most cable networks have two revenue streams — license fees from cable companies and advertising.

Now, Scripps is trying to get Food Network caught up, in terms of price, with other cable networks. But times are tough, and distributors like Cablevision don’t want to pay double-digit price hikes.

It’s as if you started a job at a low salary five years ago, and went to your boss today and asked for a big salary increase so you could be at a par with your colleagues. It’s a tough economy, budgets are tight, and your boss doesn’t care if your salary is less than everyone else.

Wall Street analyst Rich Greenfield has written that Scripps underestimated Cablevision’s resolve and unpredictability, and we think that’s true, too.

Anyway, contract negotiations are usually handled by a cable channel’s affiliate sale team, and in the case of Scripps it is Lynne Costantini, who used to work in programming at Time Warner Cable.

She was expected to be named head of programming at Time Warner, but instead a woman named Melinda Witmer got the job. Witmer was in the news recently because she negotiated the new Time Warner-Fox deal — averting a massive blackout of Fox TV stations — with Fox Cable’s affiliate chief Mike Hopkins.

For all the vitriole of the retransmission-consent negotiations between Time Warner and Fox, we don’t think any executives’ names turned up in any ads, the way that Lowe’s name has in Cablevision’s.

We have interviewed Costantini, Witmer and even broke bread and shared a few cocktails with Hopkins in Las Vegas. They’re all smart, civil folks, like Lowe.

We’re hoping that Cablevision will turn down the volume in its dispute with Scripps, and give Lowe a break. Even wars have rules. We wish Cablevision would abide by them.

In the meantime, every couple of days we have to call our sister Karen or our parents, who are among Cablevision’s 900,000 households in Jersey, to see what the cable company is running on the crawl on Food Network and HGTV’s former channel slots.