Area cable television companies say they are receiving sharply increased requests for new hookups as the result of Cable News Network's impressively superior coverage of the Persian Gulf war.
No wonder. When the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is quoting "my friend Bernie Shaw" as a chief source for bomb damage assessments in Baghdad, you know that basic cable CNN is the network to watch.
CNN's "beat" on Wednesday night's bombing raids had anchor Bernard Shaw and reporters John Holliman and Peter Arnett as the only U.S. newsmen with a live open line during the violence and in its aftermath yesterday morning.
Indeed, they perhaps had a better viewpoint than the military, so Gen. Colin Powell cited Shaw's description of Baghdad's damaged telephone center in a morning press briefing. NBC's Tom Brokaw and other broadcast network news people have frequently cited CNN reports, and Brokaw even interviewed Shaw live Wednesday night.
"People are calling up and asking, 'Do you carry CNN?'" says Elizabeth Chuday of Comcast Cablevision, which operates Comcast cable operations in Baltimore and Harford counties and also manages Howard Cable Television in Howard County.
At Baltimore County's office, for example, Chuday says Comcast subscription personnel are anticipating 10 times the number of requests for new service this month than originally expected. The company had projected perhaps 100 new subscriptions in January but now is gearing up for 1,000.
The Harford and Howard systems also have experienced increases, with the heaviest interest coming in Harford County where, Chuday says, "it really hits home because you have Edgewood Arsenal and the Aberdeen Proving Grounds" resulting in numerous military families in the area.
At United Cable Television of Baltimore, which covers city residents, spokesman Gary MacGregor says, "we certainly are getting a lot of requests" for new service, although the company could not immediately quantify them.
The officials at both companies say they anticipate that new subscribers could be put on line within two days, if they live in areas that are reached by cable lines.
GOOD FOR INVESTORS? -- Maryland Public Television says tonight's edition of "Wall Street Week With Louis Rukeyser" (at 8:30, channels 22 and 67) will take up the topic "War and the Economy," with panelists assessing the impact of Gulf hostilities. The guests include Wolfgang Demisch, of UBS Securities, Charles Maxwell, of C.J. Lawrence Inc., James Miller 3rd, of Citizens for a Sound Economy and Charles Schultze Sr. of the Brookings Institution.