Laugh while you can. Chuckle now at Mark Cuban’s fledgling high-def nets, HDNet and HDNet Movies. Given his deep pockets and his commitment to making them a viable outlet for original content, you might not be laughing for very long. A week from Friday, the high-energy Cuban and his partner and fellow gazillionaire Todd Wagner will make history. As executive producers of "Bubble," an edgy independent film by Steven Soderberg ("sex, lies and videotape," "Erin Brockovich," "Ocean’s Eleven," "Traffic," "Out of Sight"), Cuban and Wagner will release the film simultaneously in theaters and on cable. Then four days later the DVD will hit stores. The only reason for the four-day lag is that Hollywood, in its infinite wisdom, releases DVDs on Tuesdays only. Let’s be honest, we all thought HBO’s initial forays into original programming were, for lack of a better word, admirable, but in the end utterly forgettable. Remember "The Terry Fox Story" or "The Far Pavilions?" Well I do. Barely. That’s my point. While critics may have chuckled quietly at the first few HBO-produced movies, by the time "Angels in America" wrapped not many of those critics were laughing anymore. None of them laughed at "From Earth to the Moon," "Six Feet Under" or "And the Band Played On." And, needless to say, none laughed at "The Sopranos" – at least not in that way. Cuban knows that and that’s why he’s made HBO his role model. In fact, probably out of hope as much as anything, he calls his start-up "our own little HBO knock-off." And he is bound and determined to achieve the same level of respect within the Hollywood community that Michael Fuchs, Jeff Bewkes and Chris Albrecht earned while at HBO. When we talked he latched on to the phrase "creative headroom" and went back to it often. "Steve is quirky in some ways, but that’s what makes it so special," said Cuban, explaining that creative headroom means letting artists do what artists do. "You just don’t get in the way of a Steven Soderberg project," he said. And make no mistake; Cuban knows a little bit about executive producing. He and Wagner have started to amass a solid little filmography, including the current hit and likely Oscar nominee, George Clooney’s "Good Night and Good Luck." While Cuban euphemistically calls the first of six films that Soderberg will direct for him "different," and admits that many critics and members of the Hollywood business press will rip apart "Bubble" (it’s not only a small movie made for less than $2 million, but it uses non-professional actors from Parkersburg, WV, where it was shot), he is undaunted. "Look, they’re setting us up to fail," he said, "This film may not even gross $2 million, but that’s not really the point." As for those of us in the cable industry, we can only hope that Cuban is successful. For years, particularly through the dark ages of pay-per-view, we complained about Hollywood’s archaic system of release windows. But for all our complaining, not much ever got done. Now comes a guy who’s willing to make sure something gets done about this industry’s place in the cafeteria line, even if it means having to fish deep into his own pockets to buy lunch. Given that, and given the fact that what growth potential video revenue might have for operators is going to ultimately be tied directly to on-demand’s success or failure, we should all be paying close attention to "Bubble." And, at the very least, we should all wish Mark Cuban luck.

The Daily


Strike Up the C-band

While AT&T and Verizon paused the expansion of 5G rollouts using C-band near airports after airlines warned it could delay flights, the companies note that this is only a small portion of their network

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