Cable360AM — News briefing for Thursday, July 5 »

iPhone customers aren’t the only ones irked with AT&T this week, with a variety of complaints concerning the telco cropping up around the country. In Oklahoma, Cox Communications lost its bid to overturn deregulation of the former SBC when the state’s Supreme Court rejected its appeal Tuesday, reports AP and The Oklahoman. North Carolina’s state consumer advocacy agency is protesting AT&T’s bid for rate deregulation, notes the News & Observer. In Wisconsin, the AT&T-backed TV4US group has outraged foes of its cable franchise bill by listing them as supporters, according to the Wisconsin State Journal. Michigan residents are up in arms over AT&T’s U-verse crews tearing up their yards, as cited on Broadband Reports. And net neutrality advocates are taking shots at an AT&T-backed net neutrality study that’s anything but neutral, according to this report.

Cable operators will raise rates to cover the costs of new CableCard-ready set-top boxes, reports AP. From the two biggest operators, Comcast and Time Warner Cable, down to the 1,100 smaller operators who belong to the American Cable Association, cable customers can expect their rates to increase in the coming year. ACA VP Ross Lieberman comments, "We can’t absorb this cost. This rate will be passed along to consumers," and says his members’ rates will likely increase in early January. One operator promising not to raise rates as a result of CableCard requirements this year: Charter Communications, whose regional spokesman John Miller tells Madison, WI’s The Capital Times, "we are still not changing our box rental rates for the foreseeable future."

Comcast settled its spat over Qwest‘s high-speed blind "taste test" ads in Denver, with Comcast dismissing its suit and Qwest dropping its advertising campaign. Each agreed to pay its own court costs and Qwest did not admit to false advertising, reports AP. Comcast also is looking to acquire a municipal cable/broadband service in New Wilmington, PA; its $2 million bid Monday was the only offer submitted and came with unspecificed conditions, notes New Castle News

Broadband adoption is now at about 47% of U.S. homes, up 5% over last year according to new research from the Pew Internet and American Life Project. Its latest survey, conducted in February, reports 40% of African American homes with broadband, an 8% increase over 2006. It also found that 31% of homes in rural America now use broadband, up 6% over last year. The survey also found 30% of homes with annual household incomes below $30,000 now have broadband, up 9% over last year.

USA was not only the most-watched cable network for the week ending July 1, averaging 2.84 million primetime viewers (spurred by tune-in for WWE’s June 25th three-hour RAW tribute to Chris Benoit, produced before the circumstances of his death were known), but also the #1 cable network for the 2nd quarter of this year. USA was the #1 network in Q2 among households (2.05 rating), total viewers (2.6 million) and its key demos of P25-54 (1.2 million), P18-49 (1.2 million) and P18-34 (560,000). More details here. TNT‘s The Closer was the highest-rated cable program for the week ending July 1, nabbing 6.4 million viewers and a 4.2 HH rating.

CES 2008 announced its keynote speakers: as usual, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates and CEA pres/CEO Gary Shapiro, plus Intel pres/CEO Paul Otellini. CES kicks off Jan. 7 in Las Vegas, with Gates’s annual pre-show keynote on Jan. 6.



• PROGRAMMING

Al Jazeera‘s English channel has signed up more than 20,000 U.S. subscribers to its online service who are fed up waiting for more cable systems to offer the service, reports the Financial Times. Al Jazeera English is available in Vermont and Block Communications’ system in Toledo, prompting Kansas City Star TV writer Aaron Barnhart to ponder why more U.S. cable operators aren’t carrying the channel after extensive viewing (online — Time Warner Cable isn’t bringing it to K.C., he notes) and interviewing observers incuding CNN co-founder Reese Schonfeld, who calls Al Jazeera English "a legitimate news service."

Anime Network expanded its linear distribution, adding 200,000 homes via deals with Bresnan Communications, BendBroadband, BELD Broadband in Braintree, MA, Volcano Vision in Pine Grove, CA and Hawaiian Telecom in Honolulu.

BBC America premieres Layer Cake on July 29; the British feature film stars Daniel Craig, aka James Bond in Casino Royale.

BET‘s 106 & Park goes live from New Orleans tomorrow.

Big Ten Network inked a carriage deal with Horizon View, a small telco based in Chillicothe, Ohio, according to a local newspaper, the Chillicothe Gazette. Horizon View uses VDSL/ADSL to deliver video programming. BTN is pursuing non-sports tier carriage with major operators ahead of its Aug. 30 launch.

Cartoon Network premieres its first live-action series, Out of Jimmy’s Head, on Fridays this fall; it’s a spin-off of the network’s 2006 original movie, Re-Animated.

CNBC‘s American Greed tonight covers one of the biggest art heists in U.S. history.

Current TV is partnering with Bebo‘s online social network to promote its UK channel. [C21Media]

Fuel TV premieres The 808, a seven-episode docu-series on Hawaaian "surf posse" The Wolfpak, tomorrow at 10pm.

Fuse premieres Bodog Battle of the Bands on July 11; a sneak peek on fuse.tv shows judge John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols) doing his best to outrage contestants in the $1 million competition, which puts the 10 final bands on five tour-buses bound for Las Vegas.

HBO premieres Assume the Position with Mr. Wuhl, a comedy special starring Robert Wuhl, on Saturday.

IFC‘s The Henry Rollins Show features Hustler founder Larry Flynt tomorrow night (11pm ET) with Placebo as the musical guests.

Lifetime announced the principal cast of The Gathering, its two-part four-hour miniseries about a Manhattan witches’ cabal: Peter Fonda, Peter Gallagher (The O.C.), Jaime-Lynn Sigler (The Sopranos), Kristin Lehmann (Prison Break) and up-and-comer Jenna Boyd. Hit series Army Wives isn’t pulling out of shooting in Charleston, SC, after producers met with state officials over tax incentive changes. [The Post & Courier, Charleston]

Logo premieres its first animated series — Rick & Steve: The Happiest Gay Couple In All the World — on July 10; a standalone website, HappiestGayCouple.com, is offering a sneak peek.

MBN TV (Middle Eastern Broadcasting Network of America) will launch Aug. 1 on Cox Communications‘ Northern Virginia market, where Cox offers a free international tier of programming to digital cable subscribers.

NBC signed a long-term extension of its Wimbledon coverage including on-air and digital rights; the prestigious British tennis tournament is now in its 39th year on NBC, the network’s longest-running sports partnership. ESPN2 carries Wimbledon when it’s not on NBC in the U.S.

NBCU‘s networks gear up for Saturday’s Live Earth concerts with NBC‘s broadcast at 8pm ET, Bravo tapping former MTV VJs Karen Duffy and Dave Holmes and VH1’s Aamer Haleem to cover the U.S. concert from Giants stadium (starting at 9am ET), Universal HD handling high-def coverage and Telemundo and mun2 sharing bilingual Spanish coverage throughout the day. CNBC and MSNBC are also transmitting live feeds of the concerts, with live streaming on msn.liveearth.com. More info is here.

Speed Channel premieres the Ferrari Challenge Series on Saturday (July 7).

TLC premieres A Model Life with Petra Nemcova on July 13.

TNT‘s off-net repeats of Without a Trace have tanked in the ratings and will likely be replaced this fall with repeats of Cold Case. [Variety]

VH1 premieres Rock of Love, a Flavor of Love-like dating show featuring Bret Michaels of Poison that premieres July 15. VH1’s VSPOT broadband channel registered 335,000 live Concert for Diana streams on July 1st.

The tragic double murder-suicide involving WWE wrestler Chris Benoit continues to grab headlines, with federal prosecutors now questioning whether his son had Fragile X syndrome. [AP]



• ONLINE

eBay launched a classified advertising website, Kijiji, in a bid to compete with Craigslist; the Wall Street Journal has more.

Joost, the still-in-beta Web video portal, launched a channel featuring episodes from the first series of Transformers, plus clips of the new movie.

Skype, eBay’s VoIP service, tapped Jingle Networks for 411 services in the U.S.

SunRocket (the #2 VoIP provider after Vonage) laid off 25% of its workforce Friday. The Washington Post notes, "SunRocket’s growth has slowed in recent months as it battles giant cable companies."

TV networks are testing different flavors of online advertising including games, contests and other alternatives to repurposing :30 second spots, writes the Los Angeles Times.



• WIRELESS

European cellphone companies are beating U.S. carriers in the race to sign up mobile advertisers, reports the Wall Street Journal. Ujjal Kohli, CEO of Mountain View, CA-based Rhythm NewMedia, manages advertising on 3, a British mobile service with 4 million subscribers, "says cellphone spots are better at targeting an audience than TV ads because computers keep track of which ads people have seen and avoid repeats," notes the WSJ report. "The system also uses customer age and gender to better target the ads." New York Times tech reviewer David Pogue blogs today: "American cellphone carriers are calcified, conservative and way behind their European and Asian counterparts."

A Delaware bankruptcy judge approved Amp’d Mobile‘s $2.5 million settlement with Verizon Wireless under a deal that will allow the start-up to continue using Verizon’s cellular network while it reorganizes under Chapter 11 protection. [AP]

Clearwire raised $1 billion in financing via a new debt facility led by Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch, J.P. Morgan and Citigroup. The wireless broadband provider recently announced a partnership with DirecTV and EchoStar.

LG Electronics is the second mobile handset-maker (after Apple’s iPhone) to cut a deal for YouTube clips, expanding on its Google deal to sell phones in Europe with Google Maps and Gmail embedded. [Release] Helio also announced a deal enabling "two-click" video uploads to YouTube as a free service to Helio’s "All In" members.

Verizon Wireless adds live sports programming (including Wimbledon coverage) to V CAST from ESPN, CBS, Fox and NBC this summer via MediaFLO; more details here.

Today’s Detroit News looks at mobile broadband, which jumped from 380,000 customers in 2005 to 11 million in 2006 according to the FCC.



• PEOPLE

National Geographic Channel hired Steve Burns as EVP for content, replacing EVP of programming John Ford who announced his retirement in March. Burns, currently EVP and chief science editor at Discovery Networks, was head of Discovery’s The Science Channel until Discovery Channel EVP/GM Jane Root took over TSC in a management shakeup in February that led to Burns’ new role overseeing Discovery Quest, a series of expedition specials. Starting at NGC on Monday, Burns will report to the channel’s new CEO David Haslingden and oversee development, production, acquisitions and scheduling. The move marks a homecoming of sorts, as Burns was a producer for National Geographic Television from 1983-92.



• IN OTHER NEWS

Citizens Communications will acquire Global Valley Networks and GVN Services, based in CA, for $62 million.

SCI FI‘s Stargate cast and crew produced A Dog’s Breakfast, a feature that’s being distributed on iTunes and Amazon‘s Unbox download service. [Hollywood Reporter]

Movie studios are stepping up efforts to thwart pirates of high-definition DVDs with a hard-ball system called "key revocation," notes the Wall Street Journal.

Movie Gallery may close many of its 4,600 Movie Gallery, Hollywood Video and Game Crazy stores, notes USA Today.

Google‘s AdSense guru Susan Wojcicki profiled in USA Today.

HBO paid owners of Ari Gold’s house on Entourage to live on-set. [LA Times]

Click here for Wednesday’s 360AM news briefing »

Got a tip? Contact Shirley Brady at sbrady@accessintel.com

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