With the Dow shedding one-quarter of its value over the last 3 weeks, it appears that no safe haven currently exists on Wall St—except possibly makers of tissues and distillers of spirits. Of course, Americans watching their investment balances sink like CBS ‘ summer ratings are probably too busy crying and self-medicating to recognize a silver lining. Many people reasonably believe cable ops will assume a silvery hue over the next few Qs as the US population borrows at home, intent on saving dollars by watching TV/movies and surfing the Web. A logical argument to be sure, and 1 with which I agree. But are cable programmers poised to capitalize on this likely trend as well? Will cable nets’ niche content like 24/7 news—bountifully rewarded with viewership during this presidential race—continue its attraction of cash-strapped advertisers? This much we know: advertising outlooks vary, and related stocks have joined the recent financial eddy. Discovery shares are down 37% since Sept 18, Scripps Nets stock has dived 25% since Jul 1, and following the Thurs trading day shares of Viacom, Disney and Time Warner all sat at fresh 52-wk lows. Inventive ad initiatives like Turner‘s TVinContext should help going forward, but trouble may brew through to the spring or summer. In the near term, however, programmer stocks may provide some solace. GE kicks off the cable-related 3Q earnings season Fri, and NBCU will likely deliver solid 3Q ad/ratings growth, owing largely to the Beijing Olympics. Others should follow suit, with cable results poised to buoy and/or bolster the reports of pure-play securities and conglomerates alike. Moderate increases on Wall St boards may follow. Smiles may emerge. Unfortunately, what the next 2-3 Qs have in store is anybody’s guess. I like to think a marketwide bottom is nigh. But I won’t dispose of my Kleenex and cheap rum just yet. CH

Highlights: "Koppel on Discovery: The Last Lynching," Mon, 10pm, Discovery. Koppel succeeds by including contemporary voices in a brief history of lynching, up through the 1981 lynching of Michael Donald in AL. Should parents determine this show is suitable for teens (it wisely opens with a warning), all will get a useful introduction to a crucial chapter in U.S. history. — "Return of the War Room," Mon, 9pm, Sundance. Interesting update about Clinton’s advisors, plus strong bits from Republican Mary Matalin and Perot aide Frank Luntz. SA

Worth A Look: "Secrets of Body Language," Mon, 9pm, History. Your subs must concede that 93% of communication is non-verbal. If so, they’ll enjoy this fascinating special where "experts" analyze past and present world leaders’ non-verbal gestures, including McCain‘s and Obama‘s. — "The Starter Wife," season II premiere, Fri, 9pm, USA. Last season’s mini becomes a full-blown series with nearly all the principals returning, certainly the most important, Debra Messing, who plays single-mother Molly, trying to regain her bearings after her smarmy Hollywood hubbie drops her. Starter gained acclaim and ratings last season through good writing and audience-favorite Messing. That formula returns, as does the excellent Judy Davis as Molly’s strong-headed and wealthy pal. While flashbacks to "Will & Grace" are inevitable, Messing and Davis keep Starter humming. SA

The Daily


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