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Must-see TV: ‘Network Survivor’

May 19, 20033 mins

Reality TV is hot, hot, hot! And almost no one goes to industry trade shows or seminars anymore. My solution? A new reality show: “Network Survivor,” where telecom participants fight the technological equivalents of piranhas and typhoons. I dropped a note to my e-mail list for suggestions and received the following replies:

“Dear Howard:

“My name is Jack and I used to be a $20 million/year man following Wall Street. Now I am pursued by evil state attorneys general and in danger of being eaten alive by bloodsucking former investors. My life is a living hell; it makes ‘The Fugitive’ look like a walk in the park! I would be glad to have ‘Network Survivor’ modeled after my travails.”

“Dear Howard:

“Our names are Matt and Jeff, and we used to run telecom for a major oil pipeline company and a large New York investment bank. We perfected the art of ‘the advisory board,’ where hot equipment companies would give us options on 25,000 shares, and we would buy their equipment – and make fortunes when these same companies went public and we could flip the stock. Today? Nothing, nada, zilch! We are forced to live on (gasp) . . . our salaries! Tell our story on ‘Network Survivor’!”

“Dear Howard:

“Call me Bernie. I perfected the art of cooking the books. I would buy companies for overinflated values and then book fictitious revenues by something I called swaps. Now I am forced to wear an orange jumpsuit and survive with a group of inmates that wouldn’t know a 401(k) from Levi’s 405 jeans. Think HBO – ‘Oz’ in pinstripes! Have your people call my people. Let’s do lunch (here, by necessity).”

“Dear Howard:

“My name is Dave and I run the largest long-distance telecom company in America. All my life I trained for this job. And when I get it, what do I get? Two-thirds of my assets are sold to some damn cable company! Every telco in the country is my competitor, and I lose share each month. I am forced to oversee the Decline and Fall of an Empire. Everyone wants a piece of my hide!”

“Dear Howard:

“Michael here. I’m currently head of the FCC – and I thought I had a cushy job. My old man was The Man, and I had it made . . . until my cohorts, my buddies, stabbed me in the back! Didn’t they understand the rules? I was the Sun god; I could have retired on the consulting fees I would have made. Now I am mocked. Mocked! Tell my story!”

“Dear Howard:

“My name is Roth. I used to run the largest telecom equipment company in Canada. I was loved; I was revered. I regularly was bestowed with honorary degrees. If it were possible, I would have been knighted. I was hiring almost every engineer who graduated in all of Canada. My stock had made virtually every Canadian rich, rich, rich! Then I fell from grace. My company collapsed. My stock collapsed. Today, people shun me on the streets; urchins taunt me, Canadians spit when they hear my name. I am forced to run the gauntlet of ridicule and ire. Hell hath no fury like a Canadian scorned!”

There you have it, reality TV lovers. I’m sure you will insist that “Network Survivor” be carried on your local cable channel or be available on Pay Per View. Call now; our operators are standing by.

Anderson is senior managing director of Yankeetek, a Cambridge, Mass., venture incubator. He is also founder of The Yankee Group and the William Porter Distinguished Lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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