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Porn Airs Instead of Wrestlemania

NEW PORT RICHEY, Florida. – The Cosentino family gathered around the television for their favorite event of the year: WrestleMania XX, the Super Bowl of the wrestling world.

They broke out popcorn, chips and soda. Eight-year-old Nick wrapped his lucky beach towel with a portrait of The Rock around him and settled on the couch next to dad.

But an hour and a half into the pay-per-view wrestling extravaganza, the young fan witnessed a few moves he’d never seen before.

The Cosentinos might have tuned in to see the infamous pro-wrestler Triple H. What they got was more like Triple X.

“All I saw was a man holding a girl and then my dad covered my eyes, so that’s all I saw,” Nick said.

Just as Pete Rose was garnering boos for being inducted into the World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Fame, the screen flipped to men and women engaged in their own grappling.

About 1,500 people in Pasco, Hillsborough, Citrus, Hernando and Polk subscribed to the five-hour, $50 WrestleMania XX show Sunday night, said Bright House Networks spokeswoman Linda Chambers. And about 200 to 300 calls came flooding in from people none too pleased with the pornographic interruption – scenes from Naked Dating, which was airing on pay-per-view channel 302 at the same time as WrestleMania on channel 301.

“A piece of equipment malfunctioned and it switched over to a different feed,” Chambers said. “Obviously, it is something we regret having happened.”

The company was giving out $25 rebates to those who complained, she said. Though some callers had been told on Monday the rebate was $12.50, Chambers said the smaller figure was merely the result of a miscommunication.

“It was totally embarrassing,” said Vincent Cosentino, Nick’s father, who immediately sent his son to his bedroom, flipped the channel and started calling the cable company. “That was not what I ordered. That was not what I wanted to see.”

Chambers said Monday the company was still investigating what went wrong. She said it didn’t appear that all 1,500 WrestleMania subscribers had experienced the adult-rated interlude.

“We don’t know who had the glitch and who did not,” Chambers said. “It was an intermittent problem, and it didn’t happen in every area and on every cable box.

All six of Ker’s Wing House restaurants in the Tampa Bay area aired WrestleMania XX Sunday night – including one in New Port Richey, just around the corner from the Cosentino home – but spokeswoman Melissa Gibbs said it didn’t appear any of the stores experienced the interruption.

“Something like that would create a buzz,” Gibbs said.

Cosentino said he called enough times Sunday night and Monday morning and that he finally got a voice mail late in the day offering him a full rebate. But he thought the issue was more of a moral one.

The Federal Communications Commission does not regulate cable companies as it does network television and radio.

“It was totally appalling,” Cosentino said. “It should be that a major company like that should have some kind of safeguards in place.”

Asked Nick’s mother, Lori Cosentino, how can a parent be sure that if they buy Finding Nemo and walk out of the room the same thing might not happen again?

“We do everything we can to prevent this kind of thing from happening, but I don’t think it’s fair to ask for a guarantee,” Chambers said. “I would love to say that, yeah, we can give a 100 percent guarantee. I don’t know that we can give that.”

That said, Chambers said later, the company’s engineers are exploring the issue to ensure all safeguards do not fail again.

World Wrestling Entertainment vice president Gary Davis called the situation “unfortunate” and said the company would be contacting Bright House to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

“Any time any kind of programming that’s not ours is inserted into our program, it’s a problem,” Davis said.

For Cosentino’s part, Sunday night’s incident ended a family tradition. From now on, he’ll pass on the pay-per-view and just wait for the WrestleMania video before breaking out the chips and inviting the extended family.

This, on top of watching his 8-year-old son witness the Janet Jackson “wardrobe malfunction” during the Super Bowl halftime show, has turned Cosentino’s stomach a bit.

“Unfortunately,” Cosentino said, “he’s becoming a very educated 8-year-old.”
 

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