Cable360AM — News briefing for Friday, Sept. 21 »

A lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles accuses the pay TV industry of being an anti-a la carte cartel (let’s call it an "a la cartel") by offering packages of channels in bundles rather than a la carte. The suit names Comcast, Time Warner, Cablevision, Cox Communications, Charter Communications, DirecTV and EchoStar; and on the programming side, Disney, Fox, NBC Universal and Viacom. [AP]

Separately, Citizens Against Government Waste yesterday urged the FCC to drop its a la carte push, which it believes will "be more expensive than the current tiered or bundled programming system for subscribers." More on pro-tobacco and –Microsoft lobbyist CAGW here.

HDNet founder Mark Cuban blogs about the DirecTV-spurred increase in HD channels this fall: "Unfortunately for consumers, the schedules of many, if not most of those new channels will have less than 10% of their content actually produced using HD cameras and shown at HD resolution. Few will have more than 3 hours a day of HD resolution content."

Dish Network is offering its HD customers a 20% instant rebate on Sharp AQUOS LCD TVs, a savings of up to $800, through Jan. 31.

AT&T, looking to bring U-verse to Florida, will invest $750 million to upgrade the state’s broadband infrastructure. [AP]

Verizon is opening a video hub in Erie County to prepare for rolling out FiOS TV in Buffalo and Western New York next year. [Buffalo News]

Nielsen is expanding its electronic local people meter rollout to 38 more markets; it hopes to cover 70% of U.S. TV households by 2011.

Bravo started production on Mahattan Moms (wt), a fly-on-the-wall docuseries slated to premiere next year about Gotham socialites and their broods, nannies and summer homes. Bravo also launched an online TV fantasy game, TVBigshot.com. An offshoot of its TelevisionWithoutPity.com, the site lets viewers create fantasy network lineups and compete for a $100K prize.

Comcast Sportsnet Mid-Atlantic is launching CSN+, an overflow channel to accommodate extra games, Oct. 5. CSN+ will replace Mid-Atlantic SportsNet‘s overflow channel, MASN2, in many Comcast systems. [Washington Times]

Fox, in line with other broadcast nets flooding the Web this fall, will offer free premieres of seven of its fall series on Apple‘s iTunes store. Fox is previewing its fall season here, and is a co-investor in upcoming video portal Hulu.com with NBCU. [Los Angeles Times]

FX is developing Paranoid, a series from Fight Club writer Jim Uhls, as a potential replacement for The Shield after that series wraps next season. [Variety]

Hallmark will premiere The Note, a holiday movie starring Genie Francis and Ted McGinley, on Dec. 8. [Variety]

HBO‘s Justin Timberlake concert that aired earlier this month is now on Comcast’s HD VOD platform. [TV Predictions] HBO is promoting new series Tell Me You Love Us with a website showing real-life couples reacting to the racy drama. And can’t wait for Sex and the City: The Movie? Click here for a plot spoiler.

HDNet premieres original documentary, Emergency in Darfur: Children at Risk, Tues. (9/25) at 10pm ET.

Logo will start running Showtime‘s The L Word next summer. [Hollywood Reporter]

The mtn. is now available on Levan Cable System in Salt Lake City, UT; KLiP Interactive in Wyoming; Champion Broadband in Colorado and Wyoming; and Baja Bradband’s Fort Carlson, CO, U.S. Army base system. [Salt Lake Tribune]

MTV is looking for citizen journalists (bloggers, vloggers and others) to cover the upcoming presidential election for its Think.MTV.com social network. (More details here.) Think.MTV.com will stream Giving: Live at the Apollo, the Clinton Global Initiative’s Sept. 29 concert/conversation featuring former president Bill Clinton, Bono, Alicia Keys and other performers at the famed Harlem theater. A taped special will air on MTV, mtvU and Tr3S at a later date.

Nickelodeon‘s season 3 premiere of Avatar: The Last Airbender tonight "could become our Harry Potter," network president Cyma Zarghami tells USA Today. Director M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense) is writing, producing and directing a spinoff trilogy of live-action films, with the first film due in 2009.

Phoenix TV, a Chinese-language channel, launched in Time Warner Cable‘s New York and New Jersey cluster.

QVC is rebranding with a new chartreuse-hued Q logo (scroll down here to see) this weekend, after market-testing 146 potential logos. [New York Times]

Showtime has commissioned a documentary on high school musicals in Southern Indiana from Lionsgate and Spitfire Pictures to premiere next year in a bid to tap into Disney‘s High School Musical ratings phenom. The romance between co-stars Vanessa Hudgens and Zac Efron is, like, so over, reports China Daily. (They care about HSM in China?)

USA Network is being blocked from entering Canada by the country’s regulatory federal watchdog, the CRTC.

VeneMovies, a Spanish-language movie channel, marked its first anniversary in the U.S.

The Weather Channel is previewing the Oct. 1 HD second season of Epic Conditions with full episodes here.

Microsoft is sponsoring a $10 million ad blitz this weekend on Spike TV, SCI FI and Comedy Central to promote Tuesday’s videogame launch of Halo 3. [Variety]

Viacom is preparing for a possible parting of the ways between Paramount and Dreamworks (cofounded by Steven Spielberg, David Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg), Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman said at the Goldman Sachs media confab this week. [Wall Street Journal | New York Times]

Alaskan cable operator GCI signed a deal to acquire (subject to regulatory approval) Alaska Wireless Communications, which will continue to operate under that name.

Cable customers in seven Iowa communities won a key battle in their fight against a 5% city franchise fee after a Polk County judge overturned a state law intended to legalize the municipal charge on cable TV bills. [AP]

U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. may have sold stock that prevented him from ruling in the closely watched Stoneridge Investment Partners v. Scientific-Atlanta, a key case that will determine third-party liability in securities fraud. [Dow Jones]

Googlers Larry Page and Sergey Brin broke into the top 10 (sharing #5) of the Forbes 400 list of richest Americans, bumping Charter Communications chairman Paul Allen to #11. Catching up? Don’t miss yesterday’s Cable360AM briefing.



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