Cable360AM — News briefing for Tuesday, June 19 »

AT&T is accusing Cablevision of withholding its regional sports networks. AT&T’s program access complaint to the FCC yesterday asked the Commission to intervene in the spat, claiming Cablevision’s Rainbow Media Holdings unit is illegally withholding Fox Sports Network New York, Madison Square Garden Network and Fox Sports Network New England from AT&T’s U-verse IPTV offering in Connecticut. A Rainbow spokesman commented to Reuters: "We have reached programming agreements with a broad range of distributors including DirecTV, EchoStar, Verizon, RCN and even AT&T itself, but have outstanding questions regarding AT&T’s violation of prior distribution agreements and about certain aspects of AT&T’s technology and the protection of our programming," a statement that casts doubt on the security of AT&T’s video network. AT&T disputed that version of events, telling Reuters that Rainbow had cited "pretextual reasons" (such as AT&T’s lack of a cable franchise in the state) for not licensing its trio of RSNs to U-verse. AT&T’s response, said Reuters: "Connecticut regulators had determined that its video service was not subject to the state’s cable franchising requirement."

Verizon is certainly optimistic, hoping for a set-top box waiver just two weeks before the FCC’s July 1st deadline — even though the majority of providers (including Comcast, Time Warner and Cox) have "grudgingly" agreed to comply, reports Dow Jones. "Our technology is different than the boxes that have been developed for the cable industry," Verizon lobbyist David Young said on a panel at NXTcomm in Chicago yesterday. "The boxes that we have developed for our network don’t work the same way … We are committed to working with the industry standards bodies to develop open standards for downloadable conditional access, but that can’t be done by July 1." Separately, Verizon’s CTO Mark Wegleitner said at NXTcomm the telco is upgrading its FiOS network to GPON (gigabit passive optical network) over the next 3-4 years and will quadruple its bandwidth to deliver 100 Mbps service to any device in the home, reports CNET. Other tidbits: Verizon’s TR-69 remote management system will fix set-top problems from afar; Verizon plans to migrate more video services onto IP over the next 3-4 years, which will eventually run solely over an IP network, much like AT&T’s offering today; and HDVOD is launching "in a matter of months" and is now being tested in Verizon’s labs.

Qwest is moving into IPTV linear and on demand video, which it’s now testing in its labs in Denver. "We’re watching AT&T to see what the market acceptance is like," Qwest’s top marketer Dan Yost told Dow Jones at NXTcomm. "I don’t think there’s one solution." Earlier this month, Qwest said it would offer Windows Live services, allowing its customers to download and stream videos to their personal computers. Yost said the services will eventually migrate to the television. Separately, Qwest is accusing Comcast of blocking calls in two states (Washington and Oregon) from Comcast Digital Voice customers to Qwest, preventing subscribers from switching. Comcast refuted the charge, notes The Oregonian.

Former ESPN programming exec Mark Shapiro is back in the TV business via Six Flags‘ $175 million acquisition this morning of Dick Clark’s production company. Six Flags, where Shapiro is president and CEO, receives a 40% stake in Clark’s company while RedZone Capital, a private equity fund managed by Six Flags chairman Dan Snyder, will hold 60%. The deal includes nearly 900 hour-long episodes of American Bandstand, plus the American Music Awards, the Golden Globes and the Academy of Country Music Awards. "Over the last year and a half, we have been working to transform Six Flags into an ideal experience and destination for unparalleled family entertainment," commented Shapiro. "This transaction is another step in that evolution." Reuters has more.

AT&T is quietly offering $10/month DSL service, reports AP. Ars Technica has more.

The TV upfront is moving at a "rapid pace" reports Mediaweek, with Fox the first to cross the finish-line and ABC in last place for cutting 07/08 season primetime ad sales deals. Discovery Networks struck the first official cable deal of the upfront, and the upfront’s first minute-by-minute ratings-based deal, by locking in Starcom USA for 11 of its networks plus digital media extensions. Discovery and Starcom cut a deal using Nielsen All Minute (or Exact Minute) ratings data, versus average commercial minute data. Discovery SVP Beth Rockwood said Exact Minute ratings should become the industry-wide standard "as a basis for guarantees."



• PROGRAMMING

DIY premieres Celebrity Rides on June 24 with alook at Jay Leno’s classic cars.

HBO‘s new chairman/CEO Bill Nelson closed the company’s Los Angeles digital offices and eliminated at least four senior digital media executive positions yesterday. Leaving the company, reports Variety: former Warner Bros. and Yahoo exec Jim Moloshok, who was named president of media ventures in Oct. 2005; Carmi Zlotnik, EVP, original programming, business development and new media programming; and John Penney, SVP of new media business planning. PaidContent adds that Steve Sanford, GM of ThisJustIn.com, HBO’s Web comedy joint venture with AOL, was let go in the restructuring. No word on HBO’s New Media Lab producer Joe Sabia, who created the YouTube sensation, Seven Minute Sopranos. Separately, BuddyTV offers a peek at HBO’s upcoming doc by James Gandolfini, whose Alive Day Memories: Home From Iraq (his first post-Sopranos project) airs Sept. 9.

The History Channel scored 3.4 million viewers for the premiere of Ice Road Truckers on Sunday night, including 2 million adults 25-54 and 1.8 million A18-49, its highest ratings ever in those demos.

MSNBC kicked off Super Tuesday this morning, a biweekly look at politics featuring NBC News and MSNBC anchors; today’s forum, moderated by Chris Matthews, focused on the presidential elections.

National Geographic Channel tonight premieres (at 8pm) new series Critical Situation with a rare first-person re-enactment, featuring downed USAF pilot Scott O’Grady recounting his 1995 ordeal in a Serbian forest after being shot down by a Serb missile. Click here for Seth Arenstein’s review.

Oxygen promoted Mary Jeanne (MJ) Cavanagh to EVP ad sales, from SVP. Cavanagh tells MediaPost that Oxygen’s pioneer jump onboard the eBay online ad auction exchange has attracted one advertiser to kick its tires, and is on the brink of cutting its first deal.

SCI FI named Shari Weisenberg VP strategic marketing.

Shop Latino TV, a shopping network aimed at Hispanics, launches July 7.



• ONLINE

Nielsen is considering making Internet measurement mandatory in all its TV household, reports MediaPost. The plan calls for new meters that would track online and TV usage simultaneously. The move would position Nielsen for the pending merger of its TV measurement firm with Nielsen Net Ratings, and also for its ongoing A2/M2 (Anytime Anywhere) multiplatform measurement initiative. Some households in Nielsen’s early merged TV/Web tracking tests refused to add Internet measurements due to privacy concerns.

JupiterResearch estimates that U.S. ad dollars for online advertising will nearly double by 2012, with search and display online ads growing from $19.9 billion this year to $35.4 billion in 2012. [MediaPost]

Frank Magid’s Media Futures unit estimates that 80% of men aged 18-24 watch online videos at least once a week, with 35% logging in daily, according to a study conducted in late March. Overall, among 12- to 64-year-old Web users, daily online video usage rose 56% in the last year. So far this year, 14% reported using online video every day, up from 9% in 2006. Weekly usage also rose 18% over last year, with 52% of the Internet users viewing online video once a week or more, compared with 44% in 2006. In all age groups, males are more regular viewers of online video. Among females ages 18 to 24, weekly use of online video is 53%. The population with the lowest rate of weekly online video usage is women 55- to 64-years-old, of whom 39% report using online video weekly. [MediaPost]

ESPN.com launched a casual gaming section: ESPN Arcade.

Fora.tv tapped Don Baer, former Discovery Networks‘ Sr. EVP of strategy and development, as an advisor.

Google launched a public policy blog, where it addresses net neutrality and features posts from Andrew McLaughlin, its chief lobbyist, and others.

Joost retained Mehlman Vogel Castagnetti Inc. to lobby the federal government. [AP] DailyIPTV rates Joost’s Web video competition, including Comcast’s Ziddio.

Sony‘s Minisode Network launches today on MySpace; click here to check it out.

Yahoo‘s board dismissed CEO Terry Semel yesterday, promoting EVP Susan Decker to president and naming co-founder Jerry Yang to replace Semel. Yang addressed Yahoo’s staff on the company blog.

YouTube is launching customized portals in nine countries: Brazil, France, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Poland, Spain and the United Kingdom. [AP]



• IN OTHER NEWS

Comcast officially launches in 750,000 former Time Warner Cable homes in Houston today. The local ABC 13 affiliate outlines the changes (20 new channels including Logo, notes the Houston Chronicle, but no more TV Guide Network or West coast feeds of Disney Channel and Encore) in its consumer blog.

The deadline for WICT Atlanta‘s Red Letter Awards is Friday — click here for info.

DirecTV is on track to launch delayed satellite Direct 10 in early July; while the Consumerist blog finds it pays to complain to DirecTV pres/CEO Chase Carey.

SCTE‘s Cable-Tec Expo kicks off today in Orlando — click here for the official site and here for Communications Technology‘s coverage and blogs from the show.

Get Connected Inc. (GCi) adopted Go2Broadband specs.

Bresnan Communications is using CSG Workforce Express.

Sandvine acquired CableMatrix and will acquire Simplicita Software in a deal totaling $4.5 million.

Verizon is casting for a "technology makeover show" using FiOS TV. The hosts of this "Home Makeover, but done by geeks" show will "create cool and innovative projects to make life better and more fun." Geek.com has the details.

Shirley Brady

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