CyberWire Dispatch // Copyright (c) 1994 //

Jacking in from the "Hollywood and Swine" Port:

Washington, DC -- If Bill Gates builds it, Kevin Costner will come.

Dancing with Wolves, no doubt. Okay, close enough.

According to a story in the December 12 issue of Interactive Week, Microsoft has quietly cut a deal with Costner that was brokered by Hollywood's too hip Creative Artists Agency (CAA).

CAA is at the center of several interactive deals cutting across various industries. In November, three Baby Bells signed up with CAA in hopes that the Hollywood glitz would rub off on their dull-as-dirt interactive aspirations.

Meanwhile, Microsoft has been making its own series of deals involving Hollywood, according to the Interactive Week report by Wendy Goldman Rohm. Microsoft "will usher in the new year with several strategic alliances and products as part of its mammoth campaign to capture the hearts and minds of consumer America," the article says.

The deal with Costner is a CD-ROM that spins a theme off his popular frontier movie, "Dances With Wolves." It will be released this spring; its working title is "Kevin Costner's 500 Nations."

An eight hour TV version of the CD ROM series -- a history of native American tribes -- will be shown on CBS this month.

The key link is the creative hook of CAA with the Code Warriors of Microsoft, which gives the venture a jump start into the mine field benignly known as "interactive media." That's a vital, albeit volatile, relationship because if there's no "field" (read: content), no one's gonna come and play (read: spend money.)

"The idea is to get into the content development world early so you can really create multimedia titles much more from scratch than from patching it together from books, for example," Peter Mollman, director of intellectual property for Microsoft's consumer division told Interactive Week.

The relationship between Microsoft and CAA is far from exclusive, given the latter's earlier announced venture with the telephone companies. Just how deep the creative waters run between software savant Gates and creative wiz Michael Ovitz isn't known.

"There could be something more in the works. This is a brave new world. We're feeling our way," CAA spokeswoman Anna Perez told Interactive Week.

Meanwhile, on the back lot...

Apparently Bill Gates "rebuffed overtures" from Jeffrey Katzenberg about being a possible financial backer, Interactive Week says, for what has come be known as the Hollywood "Dream Team," the studio created by Steven Spielberg, David Geffen and Katzenberg.

The article reports that Gates has "encouraged" the continuation of talks regarding the "viability of a joint partnership" that might result in Microsoft-brand entertainment titles, or a licensing deal.

It May Be Utopia, But It's No Hermit From Mink Hallow

Microsoft's consumer interface for Windows95 -- code named (oh-so-humbly) "Utopia" -- is set for launch in the first quarter of 1995, according to a report in Interactive Week.

Utopia will use "high quality pictorial renderings of rooms and objects" the article says, rather than the traditional icons and menu bars.

"Contrary to some published reports, Utopia is not an interface for digital television, Microsoft acknowledged," Interactive Week says.

Utopia will include access to the Microsoft Network, the software company's bid to take over the known online world. Interactive Week says to prepare for a "promotional blitz" for Utopia.

(Big Hint for Gates: If your network doesn't run any better than your current dorky ad campaign, Steve Case at America Online, et al have nothing to worry about and those folks burning the midnight oil in Anne Bingaman's anti-trust division of the Justice Department can stop ordering Domino's pizzas...)

Meeks out...