BREAKING: In Demand and MLB announced a deal tonight for continued carriage of the Extra Innings out-of-games package on cable and the league’s Baseball Channel in 2009. Click here for more.


360AM — Morning news briefing for Wednesday, Apr. 4 (Updated: 8:30pm ET)

With Cablevision and Cox in San Diego pitching MLB.tv to their shut-out Extra Innings subscribers, MLB stands to profit nicely this season. MLB has signed 45 advertisers this season for its first ad-supported MLBEI online packages, creating a double revenue stream model on top of its $89.95-$119 online subscriptions. Given the stand-off over Extra Innings, MLB.tv could exceed the 1.3 million premium online subs it had last season. [Ars Technica] One Cablevision customer, called yesterday about the operator-funded rebate to sign up for MLB.tv, thought it was a hoax. Gary Mintz, a San Francisco Giants fan, had signed up for MLB.tv the night before, knowing he had five days to cancel if MLB and cable struck a deal. "I was like, ‘You have to be joking,’" Mintz tells New York Newsday. When he asked the customer service rep why the offer was being made, he was told: "Because Cablevision is a nice company."

Time Warner Cable today launched a debt offering and announced a multi-year carriage renewal with Disney that brings its programming across the operator’s platforms and extends retransmission consent for ABC-owned broadcast television stations in TWC systems. The deal includes linear distribution of ABC Family, Disney Channel, ESPN, ESPN HD, ESPN2, ESPN Classic, ESPNEWS, ESPN Pay-Per-View, SOAPnet, and Toon Disney. Time Warner will launch ESPN2 HD and ESPNU this year, plus three new HD services: ABC Family HD, Disney Channel HD and ESPNEWS HD. Select (Latino-skewing) markets will get ESPN Deportes and on the subscription VOD front, Disney Channel on Demand will be made available. Disney and ESPN content will augment the operator’s Start Over network DVR services and Quick Clips, its broadband video on TV service. [Release]

The Washington Post thinks congressional nudging spurred an "on hold" FCC to get hopping. FCC chairman Kevin Martin isn’t so sure. He concedes the prodding (including last month’s scolding/hearing led by Rep. John Dingell) had some impact. "We’ve got to pay attention to what Congress thinks about these issues," Martin says. However, he adds, "answering the concerns Congress may raise is not the same as doing what they ask us to do." An FCC spokeswoman commented to AP on the federal lawsuit filed by municipal organizations yesterday over the Commission’s revised franchising rules: "Competition, as we’ve all seen from our cable bills, is desperately needed in the video market." Cable operators in the Sprint wireless j.v.—Comcast, Time Warner, Bright House Networks and Cox—are expected to challenge Monday’s FCC-approved "pretexting" rules, writes the Wall Street Journal.

Comcast and Charter reached an 11th hour agreement in principle that averted a blackout of Comcast’s Versus (the former OLN) and Golf Channel national sports networks on Charter’s systems. The companies, whose contract expired 15 months ago, had extended the sports nets’ expanded basic carriage through midnight last night. Charter wanted to put the nets on a sports tier; Comcast’s rebuttal: the rising popularity of NHL (particularly in Charter’s hometown of St. Louis) and the looming Stanley Cup Playoffs on Apr. 11. Taking a page from its competition, Comcast also ran ads urging sports fans to call Charter and complain, says Sporting News. With Comcast’s video guru Page Thompson moving to Orlando as president of the Golf Channel, multiplatform content is also in the picture.

Insight Communications may see programming costs spiral now that its partnership with Comcast is unwinding. The operator warned in its annual report filed with the SEC on Mar. 27: "If a split-up of the Insight Midwest partnership were to occur, we may no longer be able to benefit from the favorable programming costs available through Comcast Cable." [Rockford Register Star]

RCN is laying off 291 employees, or roughly half the staff, at its call center in Plains, PA. It plans to outsource calls starting in June. [Citizens Voice]

Denver, former capital of cable, becomes Satellite TV Central as home to John Malone’s Liberty Media (now ascending to controlling shareholder in DirecTV) and Charlie Ergen’s EchoStar. [Denver Post]

J.D. Power gives top marks to AT&T and Verizon for business/commercial high-speed Internet service based on customer service. [Release]

• PROGRAMMING

Azteca America downplays being dropped by Pappas and says new affiliates are being lined up.

CNN‘s "O’Briens" (Soledad and Miles) are out as co-anchors on American Morning, Howard Kurtz confirms in the Washington Post. Incoming: John Roberts and Kiran Chetry, formerly of CBS and Fox News respectively. CNN announced this morning that the former morning team will move to special correspondent roles: Soledad in CNN’s special investigation unit anchoring hour-long docs, and Miles as chief technology and environment correspondent. With former CNN and ABC News exec Rick Kaplan now at CBS News, CNN recently lost Jeff Greenfield to CBS; this week it agreed to let Lou Dobbs moonlight for CBS News. Anderson Cooper and Sanjay Gupta already contribute to CBS News while Christiane Amanpour contributes to 60 Minutes.

ESPN‘s telecast of the Lady Vols’ 59-46 NCAA victory last night over Rutgers’ Scarlet Knights was blacked out by a Comcast technical glitch in (of all places) Tennessee, where about 31,000 customers or about 10% of its greater Nashville subscribers couldn’t see the game live until the final nine minutes. Comcast issued an apology and blamed equipment failure at its head-end facility about "five minutes before the big game."  [Tennessean.com]

MSNBC greenlit MODELS NYC, a six-part docu-series that debuts Apr. 16 chronicling, yep, models in New York. [Release]

Nick‘s SpongeBob goes multiplatform with "Friend or Foe?" on-air/online stunt on Apr. 13. A sneak peek on Turbo Nick launched yesterday; mobile clips are out today; Nick.com launches a game tie-in tomorrow; the DVD is released Apr. 17; and VOD content is available all month.

SOAPnet is shooting its first scripted original series—a primetime soap spinoff of General Hospital called, appropriately, Night Shift. The co-production with ABC Daytime is using the same sets and actors as GH but adds a fresh twist: the drama will center on the romance between Drs. Scorpio and Drake (says SOAPnet GM Deborah Blackwell, "She’s HIV positive, he’s trying to change his ways, and they’re in love. It’s an incredibly compelling story line") and include patients’ storylines, usually a backdrop on soaps. [Los Angeles Times]

Shirley Brady

• Click here for 360AM news briefing for Tuesday, Apr. 3 >>

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