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360AM: ComcasTiVo Ready for Primetime

Cable360AM — News briefing for Thursday, May 31 »

* Click here for Kyle McSlarrow’s video tour of the new NCTA headquarters, complete with videogames, broadband video fridge and 24/7 beertap…

TiVo CEO Tom Rogers discussed its rollout with Comcast on the company’s first quarter earnings call yesterday. Comcast’s branded TiVo DVR (which will include the ability to search VOD programming) will launch in August in Metro Boston, Southeast Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Cox Communications will deploy TiVo toward the end of this year. TiVo’s case against EchoStar is "moving closer to resolution at the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals," Rogers noted. "AT&T recently attempted to file an Amicus brief [which was denied] supporting EchoStar which speaks to how others perceive the importance of this case," he added. "We are actually pleased with EchoStar’s recent victory in another patent case, the Forgent litigation. I say pleased because EchoStar cited as a key defense one of TiVo’s important patents." TiVo also will offer a lower-priced HD box this year. In 1Q07, TiVo posted a profit of $835,000 versus a $10.7 million loss in 1Q06, while gross subscriber additions were 57,000 for the quarter, compared with 91,000 adds a year ago. [Seeking Alpha’s TiVo earnings call transcript has more.]

DirecTV‘s new satellite launch has been delayed (again) to July, according to authorities in Kazakhstan, where it was scheduled to launch in June. DIRECTV-10 is one of two new satellites that will increase DirecTV’s capacity to offer 150 HD channels by the end of 2008.

Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue yesterday approved a statewide video franchise bill, prompting AT&T to announce it’s investing $500 million to upgrade its Georgia network and launch U-verse. [Atlanta Journal-Constitution] Iowa Gov. Chet Culver approved a statewide video franchise bill on Tuesday, marking the first statewide franchise opportunity for Qwest. [Denver Post]

Motorola announced job cuts that will eliminate about 4,000 positions worldwide.

Comcast Denver expanded its VOD offering with HD content and local news from CBS affiliate KCNC, which is updated four times daily. [Colorado Springs Gazette] Comcast Chicago was slapped with a complaint from the IBEW union, which accuses the operator of discriminatory pay practices for black workers. [Chicago Sun-Times] Comcast New England launched 3 high-def channels: A&E HD, HGTV HD and Food Network HD.  And in Delaware, Comcast’s regional strategy against Verizon’s bundled offers is featured in the News Journal, where Verizon spokesman Jim Smith comments, "We’re not in the race to the bottom in cable with pricing. We’re in the market to satisfy customers with something they perceive is valuable."

With Nielsen issuing commercial ratings data starting today [#1 for commercial viewing within 3 days on DVR playback: NBC’s The Office] MTV Networks is one of the cable programming groups holding out for program ratings, notes Ad Age. Group M’s Rino Scanzoni is pushing all cable networks to embrace commercial ratings: "Cable is clearly where they need the financial incentive to clean up their act." Scanzoni added, "MTV right now still has some relatively long commercial pods and they still keep a majority of their ‘A’ positions for promos," but gave MTVN ratings props for its college viewership now that Nielsen’s tracking out-of-home viewing.

HDNet/Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is an investor in the United Football League, a rival to the National Football League that is being funded by investment banker Bill Hambrecht and Google exec Tim Armstrong. If all goes according to paln, Cuban will be one of eight UFL team owners on board for the league’s launch in August 2008, according to the New York Times, which broke the story. The NFL, which has been down this path before, declined to comment. Maverick blogs about taking on the NFL here.

Adelphia‘s remaining real estate assets are being auctioned online through June 14. [Release]

Cable TV of East Alabama settled a retransmission consent stand-off without hiking rates for subscribers, as threatened. [Ledger-Inquirer, Columbus, GA]



• ONLINE

Robert Alan Soloway, one of the world’s top 10 spammers, was arrested by federal authorities yesterday. [AP]

AOL Video launched JumpTV Live with 60 channels of international programming from JumpTV. AOL launched Switched.com, a tech news site with feeds from Engadget, AP and others.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs said looking at ways to get digital content from PCs onto TVs may not be "what consumers really want," blogs Wired at WSJ’s D5 conference.

CBS Corp.’s acquisition of Last.fm yesterday scooped Viacom, which had been pursuing the same deal for over a year. [New York Post] Les Moonves told WSJ’s D5: All Things Digital conference yesterday that CBS Corp.’s Web video efforts still come 2nd to TV, with CSI still luring 25 million viewers each week — "We realize that if we live in a world that depends totally on CBS.com, we’d be dead."

The Wall Street Journal compares Comcast and Verizon‘s efforts to launch "cool" websites such as Comcast’s Ziddio, FEARnet and upcoming Fancast and Verizon’s ActionHero, BeatBoxMixer ("cited over one million times by blogs") and upcoming VerizonSurround. No winner, just a comment that "the race is tight."

eBay paid $75 million to acquire StumbleUpon, a website with more than 2 million registered members who share tips on websites, video and other online discoveries.

Joost signed a content deal with Aardman, the British animation studio behind Wallace and Gromit. [Variety]

NBC Universal‘s upcoming Web video site with News Corp. will offer linear and broadband programming from Oxygen, Sundance Channel (part owned by NBCU) and from News Corp.’s Fox Cable arm, Fuel TV and Speed networks. [Release]

Vongo, the broadband video service from Starz, is offering a 30-day free trial to anyone that orders a Domino’s pizza online.

Following YouTube‘s deal yesterday with Apple TV, a Viacom spokesman told Reuters: "We’re always vigilant about protecting our copyrights. But we would welcome the opportunity to license our content to Apple as we do with all distributors." Viacom’s YouTube/Google lawsuit was broached yesterday at the Wall Street Journal‘s D5: All Things Digital confab with News Corp. CEO Peter Chernin, who sighed: "We believe in the sanctity of copyright." As for News Corp.’s Web video venture with NBCU, he said the goal is to create a destination site for as much content as possible and then syndicate it in a copyright-protected manner.

Former AOL-er Jason Calcanis is launching Mahalo.com, a search engine that uses people to write its results pages, like About.com and the Web before Google came along. "A human being in two, three or four hours can build a search result that’s much better than Google, Yahoo or Ask," Calcanis tells the Wall Street Journal. And when Mahalo doesn’t have a human-crafted results page ready, meaning most of the time? It will show Google search results.



• PROGRAMMING

Bravo premieres Hey Paula with back-to-back episodes following American Idol judge Paula Abdul on June 28. The new docu-series kicks off Bravo’s third night of original programming on Thursdays. Bravo’s Inside the Actors Studio kicks off new summer episodes with Julia Louis-Dreyfus on June 4th.

CNBC is investigating suspected tampering in its 12-week contest using "CNBC Bucks" to make up to 50 "trades" on NYSE, Nasdaq or the American Stock Exchange. More than 1.5 million portfolios have been submitted by 375,000 entrants to date. [Forbes | New York Post] CNBC Africa launches tomorrow, based in Johannesburg, South Africa. [VOA]

Concert.TV‘s month-long live music coverage in June includes the Bonnaroo festival. [Upstage]

Fox Business Channel named Brian Jones SVP of operations, reporting to EVP Kevin Magee.

HBO is expected to name its post-Chris Albrecht leadership structure shortly with internal candidates, and may reorganize its leadership under two top execs (one running business and another exec, likely HBO Films president Colin Callender, running programming), reports Variety.

MTV‘s programming head Tony DiSanto shuffled his execs, leading to the exit of EVP Rod Aissa and a reorganization of his department into three groups. Liz Gately will oversee reality and scripted programming as SVP of series development, Chris Linn oversees production as SVP of series production and a third exec has yet to be named to run scheduling, distribution and new media as SVP of content, programming and strategy. [Variety | Hollywood Reporter]

MTV Tr3s announced its 2007/08 lineup of new shows.

NBC and its sister TV networks—plus NBCU’s part-owned Sundance Channelannounced details of their shared, exclusive U.S. coverage of the Live Earth: The Concerts for a Climate in Crisis global event on July 7th. NBC‘s three-hour special (hosted by Ann Curry with Carson Daly) will be preceded by 22 hours’ live coverage of the concerts starting at 4am ET on Sundance Channel and Universal HD, the event’s exclusive high-definition broadcast partner. Bravo will present 18 hours of live concerts and highlights through to 2am on 7/8 plus live-blogging on BravoTV.com; Telemundo and mun2 will air specials featuring Latin performers such as Shakira and Enrique Iglesias; CNBC will broadcast seven hours in primetime; and MSNBC will cover throughout the day.

USA Network dissected (with wrong tagline) in Slate.

Versus attracted only 523,000 of its 72 million homes to watch NHL’s Stanley Cup finals opener between Anaheim and Ottawa. The game had a 3.9 rating in Buffalo, 2.2 in Denver, 2.0 in Pittsburgh, 1.7 in Los Angeles and 0.3 in New York. [AP] NBCSports.com will offer an online interactive "screen shot" application to enhance NBC’s on-air coverage of the Stanley Cup finals starting with game 3 on Saturday.

Viacom execs were met by protesters at the company’s annual shareholders’ meeting yesterday in New York, representing activists railing at hip-hop and rap videos on BET and MTV and WGA reps attempting to unionize writers on Comedy Central series. Shareholders’ concerns included chairman Sumner Redstone’s high salary, which Redstone countered is "probably too low." [Hollywood Reporter]



• TECHNOLOGY

Cisco‘s John Chambers told WSJ‘s D5: All Things Digital conference yesterday that Scientific Atlanta was one of the best acquisitions the company has ever done: “It changed the way the cable industry perceived us.” He also said he "wouldn’t be surprised" if Cisco and Apple don’t end up working on a video initiative together.

CommScope is offering "Marriage@Work" and relationship skills workshops to its employees, part of a trend spotted by the Wall Street Journal.

Spot Runner is enabling local TV ad campaigns for law firms through a new partnership with LexisNexis Martindale-Hubbell.

Visible World is expanding from advanced cable advertising into broadband with a hand from Tremor Media. VW’s new IntelliSpot Broadband Dashboard allows online advertisers to customize ads based on criteria such as zip codes and integrates Tremor’s Ad-inStream video ad system. [Clickz]

Shirley Brady

• Click here for Wednesday’s 360AM news briefing »

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