Cable360AM — News briefing for Friday, Sept. 28 »

The Wall Street Journal this morning looks at Canoe, the CableLabs-centered effort to create a standardized technology platform to make it easier for national advertisers to place a single media buy across cable operators’ different markets and advanced ad sales platforms including VOD, interactive and telescoped ads.

About 60 tech vendors are helping operators, led by Comcast COO Steve Burke and Time Warner Cable COO Landel Hobbs, coordinate their interactive advertising by next year to cash in on political ads (with a common VOD channel for presidential candidates in the works) and the 2008 summer Olympics. Canoe, so named to remind operators they’re all in the same boat, may extend to creating a national ad sales organization. Quips Starcom USA SVP Tracey Scheppach, "I really hope this canoe has more than a paddle."

Separately, CableLabs certified a Slingbox prototype that embeds a Docsis 2.0 cable modem, reports Light Reading. Sling Media, the newest member of EchoStar’s family, yesterday unveiled Solo, its first sub-$200 SlingBox, which slings HD video for $179.99. CrunchGear tested Solo after overcoming tech hiccups with Time Warner Cable.

• IN OTHER NEWS:

Don’t miss Seth Arenstein’s reviews of Showtime‘s Ultimate Free Weekend preview — featuring season 2 bows Sunday night for Dexter and Brotherhood — plus tonight’s Stargate Atlantis season premiere on SCI FI.

Eyeing DirecTV‘s 33 national HD channels (including the 21 added this week), Cablevision will add TBS HD in time for the start of Major League Baseball playoffs on Wednesday, marking its 41st HD channel. Bright House Networks launched TBS HD yesterday in Tampa Bay, and will add eight HD nets (TBS, Food, History, HGTV, Science Channel, TLC, Discovery and Animal Planet) across its Central Florida systems in December, giving Tampa Bay 30 HD channels by year-end — when DirecTV plans to offer 100 national HD channels.

As TV’s new home of Major League Baseball’s postseason, TBS is facing scheduling headaches with a potential five-way tie — and criticism for not including TBS Atlanta Braves announcer (since 1976) Skip Caray in its on-air playoffs announcing team, which includes Caray’s son Chip. Separately, Joost nabbed non-U.S. online rights to the 2007 MLB postseason.

WideOpenWest is launching Big Ten Network in time for this weekend’s college football games. In a swipe at BTN’s cable operator hold-outs, Fox Sports commented, "With the addition of WOW, Big Ten Network has entered into distribution agreements with all of the major alternatives to the largest cable companies enfranchised in [Big Ten’s] eight states to service their communities." Fox says the WOW deal makes BTN the fastest growing new cable network ever, surpassing 30 million homes in its first 30 days.


Charter Communications is consolidating its Northern California systems. Ed Merrill, VP/GM for its Central and Northern California division, is stepping aside for Manny Martinez, VP/GM of Charter’s Nevada and Tahoe division, who will run the combined divisions. The transition, which will take effect through the new year, follows Charter’s recent consolidation in Southern California. [San Luis Obispo Herald]

DirecTV and EchoStar are backing a Congressional bill that aims to prevent "discriminatory state taxation" and supports their battles in Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio, Florida and other states seeking to levy taxes on the satellite TV providers.

Disney is pulling the plug on its U.S. mobile phone service and will instead license its content to bigger carriers, such as Verizon. The failure of Disney Mobile follows a similar stumble with ESPN‘s shuttered mobile service. [Reuters | Wall Street Journal]

The NAB released its first DTV transition PSA (watch here) while small cable operators may have to forgo applying for waivers to exempt them from delivering local digital signals after the Feb. 2009 transition ‘s new FCC rules. "Some very small systems will have no choice but to shut down because their small subscriber bases cannot support the costly equipment mandated by [the FCC] order," American Cable Association president and CEO Matt Polka tells the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Following the Nielsen ratings flap this week over NBC‘s cumed Monday/Saturday Heroes premiere, Nielsen is talking to networks about its new cume ratings and may extend them to cable networks, which originally passed due to hurdles such as east and west coast feeds. [MediaPost]

Microsoft yesterday unveiled Internet TV, a still-in-beta offering of hundreds of hours of content — including Fox Sports and MSNBC programming, movie trailers and full episodes of shows such as acclaimed-but-cancelled Arrested Development — as free full-screen video for Xbox 360. Non-Xbox 360 owners can purchase "home media extenders" later this year. The wireless set-top boxes from third-party vendors (including D-Link, Niveus Media and Cisco’s Linksys) will allow Internet TV content to play on TV sets and PCs running Windows Vista.

BigBand slashed its third quarter guidance more than 24%, sending its shares into freefall in after-hours trading yesterday, notes Light Reading. The tech firm blamed softness in its data business and an inability to recognize switched digital video revenue for cable deployments due to unexpected levels of software customization and integration for cable operators.

Thanks to DBS and cable operators’ marketing efforts, DVRs are now in about 20% of U.S. homes and could hit 50% penetration (60 million homes) by 2011, according to Leichtman Research estimates cited by E-Commerce Times.

MPEG-4 could become a $100 million business for cable set-top box makers Motorola and Scientific-Atlanta, reports Dow Jones.

A former Cox Communications employee pleaded guilty to hacking into and sabotaging its network, leading to service failures across its markets. William Bryant of Norcross, Ga., faces a 10-year prison sentence, reports Information Week.

Verizon refused to divulge its timeline to expand FiOS TV to Washington, D.C., telling the Washington Post: "Comcast would love to know our advance plans for the District, and we’re not inclined to help them any sooner than we have to."

MTV and MySpace‘s first presidential candidate "dialogue," with former Sen. John Edwards, premiered last night on MTV and is now online at chooseorlose.com and on MySpace.

CBS today announced EyeLab, a digital studio that will produce and distribute short clips promoting its new fall TV shows that can include bloopers and other DVD-like extras rather than series excerpts. "It turns our promotion into content," CBS marketing president George Schweitzer tells the Wall Street Journal.

NBC‘s new fall shows quietly popped up on iTunes this week despite NBCU’s refusal to renew its contract with Apple. PC World isn’t surprised, with one-third of iTunes’ Top 100 TV shows from NBC.

ESPN parted ways with former Monday Night Football analyst Joe Theismann, and (thanks to Disney’s regionalized strategy for ESPN/ABC sports this season) will carry ABC‘s college football telecasts on eight Saturdays instead of substituting golf or other sports coverage, notes USA Today. Armstrong also signed a distribution pact with ESPNU in time for tomorrows key Pittsburgh Panthers vs University of Virginia match-up, adding ESPNU to its digital package in western Pennsylvania including Pittsburgh, Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland and Kentucky.

TV Land cancelled its classic TV characters’ statues program just as Milwaukee is seeking to "bronze the Fonz" in a civic ode to Happy Days. TV Land has donated six statues since 2000, when New York received a statue of Ralph Kramden, Jackie Gleason’s character on The Honeymooners. [AP]

Niagara University will launch NSN: the Niagara Sports Network in January. The Western New York regional sports net will cover college sports such as men’s hockey and basketball for local cable systems in partnership with Time Warner SportsNet in Rochester and WNGS-TV in Buffalo. 

Bloomberg LLP was slapped with a federal EEOC suit for alleged discrimination against pregnant employees. NYC mayor Mike Bloomberg is no longer involved with the media company he founded, which includes Bloomberg TV and its financial news service. [New York Times | Wall Street Journal]

NBCU head Jeff Zucker (carrying a torch long-held by former NBCU head Bob Wright) and Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman will speak out against piracy and counterfeiting at next week’s U.S. Chamber of Commerce summit on piracy. [CNET]

Catching up? Don’t miss yesterday’s Cable360AM briefing.



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