360AM — Morning news briefing for Wednesday, Apr. 18 (Updated: 8pm ET)

AT&T today announced it’s launching its U-verse IPTV service "in the Los Angeles area in the coming weeks." The move follows California’s recently revised video franchise rules by the state PUC designed to ease telcos’ entry in local markets to compete with cable. The LA/SoCal market has also experienced some teething problems in the  transition to Time Warner Cable‘s consolidation of the market from Adelphia and Comcast, a situation that led to the ouster of TWC’s former LA division president Roger Keating. AT&T recently launched U-verse in Kansas City and Dallas-Fort Worth, where it’s now available to more than 200,000 households; Milwaukee just approved U-verse yesterday [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel]. AT&T said it added over 180,000 U-verse subscribers in the first quarter, "more than the four largest reporting cable companies combined added for the full year in 2006." It recently introduced U-verse OnTheGo, allowing the service to be streamed live onto a PC, and is "soon" adding remote DVR programming by cellphone or the Web.

Updated
: Andrew Rosenblum, creator and host of GameLife, a Web-based video game review show that he contributed segments of to MTV.com’s videogame series The G-Hole, was picked up for questioning by authorities in Boston after allegedly sending an email to an ex-girlfriend "threatening to recreate the Virginia Tech bloodshed at her school," according to today’s Boston Herald. An MTV spokesperson today commented on the Boston Herald report that Rosenblum’s GameLife show was streamed as segments within MTV.com’s videogames portal—not as its own branded online series within its Web properties—and said the network had (and has) no connection with Rosenblum beyond that.

MTV.com is covering the VT massacre in both video and MTV News reports such as this story about Wayne Chiang, an Asian dorm-mate of gunman Cho Seung-Hui who was falsely accused by an "online mob" and by Fox News‘ Geraldo Rivera of being the shooter. WE tv, in response to this week’s events, cut a gun-shopping scene from Friday’s premiere episode of its reality series Wife, Mom, Bounty Hunter, says the New York Post.

Today’s Wall Street Journal looks at how text messages and email are becoming prevalent in emergency response outreach — but it’s only as good as the information conveyed, as Virginia Tech officials learned this week. "Administrators have acknowledged that these methods can’t reach the thousands who at any moment aren’t logged on to the Internet, while the dormitory phone system can’t reach the 17,000 students who live off campus," notes the WSJ. VT students informed each other (and loved ones) by cellphone and instant-messaging while awaiting official updates — and in the aftermath, congregated online, primarily on Facebook, to grieve and honor the victims. Campus newspaper The Collegiate Times broke victims’ identities by first trolling Facebook’s cyber-memorial "walls" and then verifying names with friends and school officials.



• IN OTHER NEWS

NBA commissioner David Stern says MLB commissioner Bud Selig took a page from his playbook in its recent pay TV negotiations with satellite and cable operators. "The NHL and more recently MLB understand that our template works well, and we are flattered that they followed our plan. We also think that the NFL saw how NBATV became a destination not only for our fans, but for many of our players," Stern tells the Baltimore Examiner. "We televised more than 80 regular-season games this year and games from the European leagues, giving our fans a peek at some future stars. It is exactly what the NFL Network is doing successfully with their channel."

Discovery Communications head David Zaslav makes a high-profile hire to run TLC: Angela Shapiro-Mathes, a former Disney exec (and, briefly, head of ABC Family) who’s leaving her current post as head of Fox TV Studios to become the network’s president and GM on July 1. She replaces David Abraham, who this month took over as CEO of UKTV, and will split her time between the west coast and Discovery HQ in Silver Spring, MD. The news was timed to Discovery Networks’ upfront presentation today in Beverly Hills. [LA Times | Variety | Hollywood Reporter]

Motorola announced 1st quarter earnings (including selling a record 4.9 million digital set-top boxes) and confirmed it began shipping CableCARD-ready digital set-tops this month [Release]. FCC commissioner Michael Copps told the NAB Show yesterday he is "really worried" about the digital TV transition [Reuters].




• COMPETITION

AT&T settled with 13 data brokers it accused of fraudulently obtaining customer phone records in undisclosed cash settlements; the so-called "pretexting" lawsuit settlements in San Antonio and San Francisco prohibit seeking customer data in the future. Two other settlements are expected shortly. [AP | Release] FCC chairman Kevin Martin is scheduled to meet today with representatives from Iowa rural telcos and free VoIP vendors to present their case against AT&T and other large telcos. [GigaOm] Wisconsin’s AT&T-backed statewide video bill was passed by the Assembly’s Energy and Utilities Committee yesterday and heads to the full Assembly for debate next Tuesday.

DirecTV‘s local HD channels are now available in 59 markets, reaching more than 70% of US TV households.

Verizon received approval to sell FiOS TV in Nike’s backyard of Washington County, OR. [The Oregonian] Verizon tells the Boston Globe it’s not applying for any more franchises in MA so it can focus on the 45 communities where it’s already rolling out FiOS across the state. Officials discussed FiOS TV local programming at NAB this week, according to a recap in Xchange. Following its Mar. 30 FiOS1 channel launch in Washington, D.C., FiOS is planning more local channels in areas that Verizon perceives as “underserved” by cable or satellite with local programming. The company plans to expand its locally content initiatives from FiOS to Verizon’s wireless and broadband platforms.

Vonage says its patent battle with Verizon could lead to bankruptcy. [Bloomberg]



• NETWORKS

AMC tonight debuts a new season of Brit con series Hustle — click here to watch CableWorld editor Seth Arenstein’s video interview with "The Lure" on the series, actress Jaime Murray. Looking to build upon its success with last year’s Broken Trail, the channel is developing a number of war-based scripted period miniseries including the Civil War-set Against the Guns of Quantrill, three dramas involving Nazis (Skylark, White Rose and Berlin Mesa) and a WWI drama, L-19. [Hollywood Reporter | Variety]

BET premieres Ballers, a late-night sports talkshow, on Friday; it’s co-hosted by four-time NBA World champ John Salley, three-time NFL Pro Bowler Hugh Douglas and comedian Guy Torrey. [Release]

CBS announced CBS Connections, a cross-platform unit to help advertisers ahead of the upfront [Release]. CBS also completed its transfer of Green Bay affiliate WFRV to Liberty Media [Release] and announced an interactive program guide deal with Gemstar-TV Guide for its owned and operated broadcast stations and affiliates [Release].

ex-Comedy Central star Dave Chappelle breaks stand-up comedy record with six-hour set at the Laugh Factory [AP]. The Chappelle Show starts a three-season, two-year run on Superstation WGN this fall.

Current TV poached Liz Janneman from The Weather Channel as its new president of ad sales. [Mediaweek]

FEARnet, the horror VOD/broadband channel owned by Comcast, Sony and Lionsgate, added user-generated video and a blog by Saw II-IV director Darren Lynn Bousman.

HBO will share UFC: Ultimate Fighting Championship mixed martial arts with Spike TV. [LA Times | NBC Sports]

LATV, a multicaasting Latino broadcaster, begins its national expansion next month in markets including Fresno, Las Vegas, Houston, San Antonio and Miami. [Long Beach Press-Telegram, CA]

Lifetime‘s Betty Cohen has a conversation with NYWIFT tonight in New York.

NBC had its worst week ever in the history of being rated by Nielsen; only last week’s Deal or No Deal cracked the 10 million viewer mark. [Washington Post]

NFL Network announced 33 hours of draft programming on-air, plus NFL.com and VOD coverage.

Starz premieres Head Case with Alexandra Wentworth tonight at 11pm. Starz acquired Grindhouse, Scary Movie 4 and Dixie Chicks’ doc Shut Up and Sing from The Weinstein Company.



• ONLINE

AOL‘s first ever upfront (yesterday in New York) prompted Time Warner president Jeff Bewkes to crack that advertisers should being doing business with "people you trust, because they’re wearing neckties," a dig at the younger-skewing, perma-casual Friday online world. [LA Times]

Apple eyeing a subscription service for iPhone? [Wired]

blinkx enables TV show searches that rank full-length episodes over clips. [Release]

Comcast taps GOT Corp. to offer email marketing to its commercial online customers. [Release]

DAVE Networks enhances its online social network. [Release]

HealthiNation launches on Joost; Raj Amin’s health channel is also on VOD with Insight Communications. [Release]

MobiTV and Intel partner to offer streaming TV to PCs and mobile devices. [Release]

Fora.tv (founded by former C-SPAN exec Brian Gruber), the Research Channel and Link TV profiled in the Wall Street Journal as loftier Web video pursuits than, say, searching for skateboarding dogs on YouTube.

Burning up the Web today: The Landlord, wherein Will Ferrell begs Jeremy Piven’s potty-mouthed (on cue) two-year old niece Pearl for a break on his rent.

Shirley Brady

• Click here for 360AM news briefing for Tuesday, Apr. 17 >>

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