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OEN's Last Stand

3:40 PM -- News of Optical Entertainment Network's (OEN's) demise wasn't terribly surprising. But I wish there was a word to describe how amused and horrified (amusified?) I felt when I found this LRTV interview in our video vault the other day. It's a piece that I, in a rare moment of good judgment, spiked during our NXTcomm 2007 coverage on the grounds that it simply gave me the creeps.

The interview subject, of course, was the CEO of OEN.

Some background: We ran a story on the startup FTTP provider's "tall tales" back in 2005. That story was a bit of a wild one. What's better than a news story featuring a CEO making big promises on behalf of a service provider that was, for instance, prepping for a London IPO, despite having no revenues, no customers, and no network? I'll tell you what's better (and prepare to be amusified): It's a video interview of a different CEO, making a different set of big promises, on behalf of the same service provider that still had barely any revenues or customers and had to buy it's only network assets off the scrap heap.

Yes, during our LRTV exchange, OEN's CEO didn't disappoint. He piled the cheese sky high and rolled out some of the most elastic facts ever stretched in front of a camera.

He fussed about one question -- "How many subscribers do you have?" -- and jumped all over a slightly softer version of the same question. When asked about "subscriber take-rates" instead of subscriber numbers, he launched into an answer so rehearsed it makes the Miss America pageant look like a Second City audition.

I can't even remember his answer. I tuned him out when it became apparent that he wasn't there to do anything short of using up all our video tape and making the cameraman stare daggers at me for booking a 45-minute interview right before lunch.

Back in the real world, OEN passed a lot of homes in Houston. And the Houstonians in those homes probably passed a lot of OEN sales materials on their way to sign up for cable service.

Yes, OEN employed some legendary B.S. artists and I have yet to read a kind comment from any of their former customers on Internet message boards. If the company's defenders were to pile into a Volkswagen, you'd still have room for a baby seat in the back.

This forgotten LRTV interview, while amusifying, is a nice reminder to startups that you can't build a reputation on what you plan to do tomorrow.

— Phil Harvey, Barely Managing Editor, Light Reading

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