Cable360AM — News briefing for Monday, August 27 »

Comedy Central struck a first-of-its-kind profit-sharing deal Friday with South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker. In a landmark agreement estimated to be worth up to $75 million by the New York Times, the duo will get a 50-50 share of ad revenues and "millions in up-front cash" that gives them a cut of revenues from online, mobile, video games, international and other ancillary businesses Comedy Central creates for their cartoon franchise. The deal, which adds three years to their previously negotiated contracts and extends South Park through a 15th season (and a healthy chunk of back-end profits) into 2011, also finances the creation of South Park Digital Studios, a joint venture production unit housed within their animation studio that will serve as an incubator for South Park brand extensions and new programming concepts for Comedy Central. Stone commented, "Three more years of South Park gives us the opportunity to offend that many more people. And since Trey and I are in charge of the digital side of South Park for the first time, now we can offend people on their cell phones, game consoles, and computers too." [Release | New York Times]

The Big News for sports fans this week: Fox-owned Big Ten Network‘s failure to clinch a deal with Comcast and other major cable operators. Click here for the latest.

Comcast stock could soar up to 57% in the next year due to a healthy cash flow outlook that gives it $4 billion to spend through 2009, according to Barron’s [via Reuters].

With ad spending on Spanish-language TV increasing from $1.8 billion in 2001 to more than $3 billion last year, Nielsen wants to offer advertisers apples-to-apples ratings for Latino programmers and other Nielsen-rated networks. The TV measurement giant plans to start one set of national TV ratings for English- and Spanish-language TV networks from the same National People Meter panel and retire its 15-year-old National Hispanic People Meter panel. [Release]

Disney Channel will air a special "dance-along" version of High School Musical 2 on Sept. 8 at 8pm ET, in which the movie’s cast will instruct viewers how to recreate their dance-steps. DisneyChannel.com now offers downloadable instructions for the special. Disney will release an expanded version of High School Musical 2 on DVD with extras including a musical number that didn’t make it into the record-breaking cable phenom. The HSM2 DVD, which goes on sale Dec. 11, will also be available as a Blu-ray HD DVD. And People magazine’s cover features HSM stars-turned-couple Zac Effron and Vanessa Hudgens and coins a too-cute moniker: Zanessa.

CableFAX Daily reports that the NCTA last week filed an appeal in federal court over the FCC’s pretexting order released in March. The FCC order requires telecoms and interconnected VoIP carriers to get customers’ opt-in approval to release their information.



• COMPETITION

Verizon‘s FiOS TV expands today in the New York City area, where it’s now available in Yonkers, Scarsdale and Bronxville. With more than 120 New York communities offering FiOS TV, Verizon also expands the service in Cablevision‘s territory by taking orders starting today in Floral Park and South Floral Park, Long Island. [Release]

AT&T‘s U-verse has been pitching its service all summer by going door-to-door in Chicago in a bid to compete with Comcast, whose local spokesperson counters it’s been marketing door-to-door since "day one." U-verse will scale back as its summer salesforce heads back to college. [Chicago Tribune]

DirecTV will use Intellon‘s HomePlug 1.0 with Turbo to create a broadband link from its HD DVR set-top box to subscribers’ computers — or to "provide No New Wires® connectivity for DIRECTV’s Video On Demand service that is scheduled to launch this fall." [Release]




• PROGRAMMING


BET defended its "Read a Book" interstitial, an animated mock PSA that’s available in an uncensored version on YouTube, as a satirical take on the "current state of hip-hop and hip-hop videos" — and thus its longstanding reputation as a perpetuator of those stereotypes. The subtlety of its meta-criticism has been lost on some online critics. [New York Times]

The future of HBO‘s U.S. Comedy Arts Festival, a pet project for former chairman Chris Albrecht, is up in the air. HBO announced after Albrecht’s ouster in May that the event, which generated an annual HBO comedy special, was pulling out of Aspen after 13 years, and will now leave it homeless and on the "back burner," according to Variety. HBO is also expanding its international footprint via VOD, launching HBO on Demand Oct. 1 in Japan following a similar entree into Israel, notes the Hollywood Reporter [via Reuters].

Lifetime half-owner Hearst Corp. made a $600 million bid Friday to acquire the outstanding shares of Hearst-Argyle Television and take the broadcasting stations group private. [Release]

As part of its just-announced fall programming lineup (which includes Sex Cred with Dr. Ruth), mtvU named John Ashbery its first poet laureate. A non-paying gig, the 80-year-old’s postmodern poems will be featured in 18 mtvU promos that will run on-air and online. mtvU is sponsoring a talent search for America’s best college poet, whose prize is a book publishing deal with HarperCollins. [New York Times]

NBC this week starts selling an exclusive-to-Starbucks DVD of Saturday Night Live‘s 2006/07 season, the first TV network to strike a distribution deal with the coffee chain.

NBC Universal is preparing an estimated £175 million ($351.4 million) bid to acquire Sparrowhawk Media, which owns the Hallmark Channel outside the U.S., from 3i, Providence Equity and their co-investors (reports the Sunday Telegraph in London). If NBCU is successful in its bid, it will own the Hallmark Channel internationally — 18 feeds serving 152 territories and 53 million subscribers — along with non-U.S. rights to Hallmark’s film library, which includes Moby Dick and Gulliver’s Travels. U.S.-based Crown Media sold Hallmark Channel international two years ago.

Nickelodeon hired Tracy Katsky as SVP of original programming and development; she was previously SVP of development at HBO Independent Productions. [Release]

Planet Green president/GM Eileen O’Neill calls Discovery Communications’ upcoming eco-TV channel HGTV "meets Bravo." The 1st quarter network launch will feature celebs (Leonardo diCaprio, Adrian Grenier) touting practical tips to address climate change. [Washington Times]

ReelzChannel premieres Awards Watch ’07-’08, featuring on-air and online coverage of red carpet events leading up to the Academy Awards, starting Sept. 21 at the Toronto Film Festival. Other awards coverage under the banner includes the Golden Globes, the PGA, DGA and WGA awards and special looks at Academy Award nominees. [Variety]

In one of the last vestiges of Ted Turner’s era running Turner Broadcasting, TBS has only nine Atlanta Braves games left through September before bumping Braves games to WTBS (which it’s renaming Peachtree TV) next season. Braves games will also be carried on the SportsSouth and FSN South regional sports networks. TBS is replacing the Braves with a package of Sunday afternoon league-wide games next season, and this fall introduces postseason games for all four division series and the National League Championship Series. [Atlanta Journal-Constitution]



• HDTV

Electronics retailers are "abandoning the entry-level price point" and pushing pricier HDTV sets as they head into this year’s holiday selling season, reports the New York Times. The reasons: they are selling more HDTVs than ever but making less money on them, while competition from Wal-Mart and Costco also eats into high-def profit margins.

Mark Cuban’s Ultra HD Video on Demand offering, a window-busting VOD/theatrical high-def offering featuring movies from Magnolia Pictures and 2929, his theatrical businesses, offered Closing Escrow comedy "weeks" ahead of its Aug. 24 theatrical launch on Time Warner Cable‘s system in New York City, reports Variety. TWC also offers advanced VOD windows on movies from RHI Entertainment (in tandem with Cablevision and Cox) and same-day theatrical titles on VOD from IFC Films.

USA Network today begins more than 107 hours of coverage of the U.S. Open, including more than 95 hours live and (once again) a high definition simulcast on Universal HD.



• ONLINE

Playboy is wooing college kids with Playboy U (tagline: "Join our student body"), which it’s billing as a "non-nude" online social networking site. [CBS News]

Starz Media, which is relaunching its Manga.com site for anime programming (which also runs on SCI FI‘s Ani-Mondays block), licensed 40 hours of its anime content to Heavy.com. Heavy will chop it up into free, ad-supported short clips. [Variety] Starz is also promoting its Vongo movie downloading service in a back-to-school promotion aimed at heavy video game users with AMD.

Yahoo and the NFL are teaming for the second year in a row to stream live games for $24.99/wk or $249.99 for the season by signing up here.

South-Asian Americans spend twice as much on cable and satellite television to access premium TV channels from India, Sri Lanka and other countries, but they are also eager to receive broadband content for the premium channels they pay for, such as Zee-TV and HBO. [Adweek]



• MOBILE

Verizon Wireless launched V CAST mobile TV service in El Paso, TX, and Santa Barbara, CA.

Between Sept. 2006 and April 2007, the percentage of cellphone-only U.S. households (14%) overtook the percentage of landline-only households (12.3%). [New York Times]

The iPhone hackers at iPhoneSimFree.com and New Jersey teen George Hotz, whose untethering of an Apple iPhone from AT&T‘s network (blogged here and YouTubed here) was covered by the New York Times, must be a little nervous after AT&T lawyers threatened to take legal action against iPhoneUnlocking.com, a subsidiary of UniquePhones that was planning to release its iPhone hack online over the weekend.



• ON THE BLOGOSPHERE

ConsumerAffairs.com accuses Comcast of punishing its high-speed Internet subscribers — such as Frank Carreiro, who’s taken his battle to the blogosphere — with "secret bandwidth limits."

Slashdot notes the NCTA‘s OCAP-based response in a filing to the FCC that addresses charges that cable operators’ switched digital video systems conflict with TiVo‘s HD DVR.

Om Malik looks at the rise of Web VJs, who make personal recommendations on what to watch online, including Joost Jockey Noelle Sadler, who has a day job but is paid to blog on MySpace and BlogSpot; Brightcove’s Video Addict; and Jaman’s Jamanista. YouTube staffers post their video picks on YouTube’s blog.

Click here for Friday’s 360AM news briefing »

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

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