Cable360AM — News briefing for Friday, July 6 »

Comcast accused the Federal Communcations Commission of "arbitrary" and "capricious" behavior in the agency’s granting of waivers in its integrated set-top box ban and CableCard-ready set-top mandate that kicked in July 1st. Comcast fired off a letter to the FCC on Tuesday (reports Dow Jones) calling its last-minute waiver to Verizon, the target of its ire, "preposterous."

Verizon, not the only company to receive a waiver, had used the argument it’s going all-digital before the FCC’s deadline of Feb. 17, 2009, to sidestep the new set-top rules which Comcast and other non-waived operators must obey. Verizon’s chief technology officer, Mark Wegleitner, outlines the company’s move to all-digital in a CNET Q&A today (that includes the role of wireless and his opinion of AT&T’s U-verse) here.

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association this week also blasted the FCC’s decision-making on waiver requests. NCTA spokesman Rob Stoddard said in a statement, "There’s nothing in these decisions to stave off a $600 million set-top box tax likely to affect the great majority of cable customers." An Associated Press article this week fueled those concerns about pending rate hikes related to operators’ CableCard costs.



Versus isn’t downplaying the doping scandal in its coverage of the Tour de France, which kicks off this weekend, notes the Wall Street Journal. An ad in USA Today subtly alludes to the non-doping oath that competitors must take this year in a bid to re-enage viewers in an event that saw ratings drop off 49% last year in the post-Lance Armstrong era. (The 2007 Tour de France opening weekend schedule on Versus is noted below.) Discovery Communications re-branded its cycling team, nickamed "the blue train," in green colors reflecting its $50 million Planet Green eco-conscious corporate initiative, reports Reuters.



UK’s The Business reports that Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. has reached a deal with the Dow Jones board to acquire the company for $5 billion. The report says an agreement has been reached "on price and matters of principle" with a few details to be resolved and a formal announcement expected next week. A Dow Jones representative refuted the report to Reuters and said a deal has not been reached and negotiations continue.



• PROGRAMMING

Cox Communications launched HD movies on demand in its Northern Virginia market.

DirecTV today adds Azteca America‘s Wichita, KS, channel (KSMI-51) to its local broadcast channel lineup in the market, bringing its carriage of Azteca America to 25 markets or 72% of U.S. Hispanic TV households.

ESPN covers David Beckham’s July 21st Major League Soccer debut with the Los Angeles Galaxy with an expanded SportsCenter that day followed by a special (David Beckham: New Beginnings), a pre-game show and the game itself at 9pm.

HBO‘s Sex and the City movie that starts shooting this fall is old news, writes the Washington Post‘s Lisa de Moraes, with the original cast talking up the project in recent months. Variety reported last month that former HBO chairman Chris Albrecht is guiding the big screen SATC spin-off behind the scenes. Separately, HBO spent an estimated $3 million on its HBO Voyeur marketing campaign that started last week, reports Adweek.

Lifetime wrapped up the bulk of its upfront ad sale deal-making with CPM increases of 7-9% using Nielsen’s C3 ratings (commercial ratings + 3 days of DVR playback) in its 2007/08 upfront negotiations, reports Mediapost.

MTV is supporting tomorrow’s Live Earth concerts across its global networks and websites including the launch of liveearth.mtv.com. Live Earth co-organizer Al Gore’s Current TV is also supporting Live Earth with a :60 Seconds to Save the Earth contest for user-generated PSAs on climate change through Sept. 12th that the former VP and actress Cameron Diaz will announce tomorrow; Gore’s Alliance for Climate Protection is co-sponsoring. NBCU‘s networks and liveearth.msn.com have U.S. TV and streaming rights (see below).

VH1 is preparing two concert tours, reports Billboard: the 2nd annual You Oughta Know tour, featuring Brandi (kicks off Sept. 6) and its first Hip Hop Honors tour (starts Sept. 13), featuring The Roots.



• CABLE PREMIERES

Click here for Seth Arenstein’s reviews of upcoming programming.

Friday: Doctor Who on SCI FI (8pm); The 808 on Fuel TV (10pm)

Saturday: Live Earth concerts on NBCU’s cable networks kick off on Bravo at 8am (also carrying the concerts: Universal HD, MSNBC, CNBC, mun2 plus Sundance Channel, NBC and Telemundo); live 2007 Tour de France preview on Versus at 9:30am; American Body Shop on Comedy Central (10:30pm); HBO premieres Assume the Position 201 with Mr. Wuhl (a comedy special starring Robert Wuhl, 10pm) while HBO2 stokes Harry Potter-mania with the TV premiere of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and a 13-minute sneak peek at Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (ahead of its July 11 U.S. release) runs all weekend on HBO Family’s First Look series.

Sunday: Stage 1 of the Tour de France starts at 8am on Versus; live streaming starts at 5:30am on Versus.com; Science of Speed Eating on National Geographic Channel (9pm).

Monday: Dog Whisperer Week on National Geographic Channel; Spielberg on Spielberg, Turner Classic Movies (8pm ET); The 2007 World Series of Pop Culture on VH1 (8pm); Greek (series premiere) on ABC Family (9pm ET); The Bronx is Burning eight-part miniseries starring John Turturro begins on ESPN (10pm).



• PEOPLE

Ousted NBC programming head Kevin Reilly is in talks to rejoin former boss Peter Liguori at Fox, reprising their FX days when Liguori ran the channel and Reilly headed programming from 2000-2003. [Variety | Hollywood Reporter]

TLC president/GM Angela Shapiro-Mathes (whose first day on the job was Monday) hired longtime lieutenant Regina DiMartino as TLC’s new EVP of marketing. DiMartino’s previous title was EVP, global marketing at Fox Television Studios, Shapiro-Mathes’s previous employer.

The Weather Channel promoted Paul Borgese to director of ad engagement on The Weather Channel Media Solutions Group, its ad sales arm. He was previously director of research.



• IN OTHER NEWS

Cablevision shares rose to their highest in more than five years following Sanford C. Bernstein analyst Craig Moffett’s report that the New York-based cable operator may be worth twice the $36.26 per share the Dolan family agreed to pay to take the company private. [Bloomberg]

Capitol Broadcasting president Jim Goodmon is lobbying for the U.S. Copyright Office’s cumpulsory license for over-the-air broadcasts to include in-market Web distribution so cable systems can stream IP-delivered TV station signals as part of retransmission consent agreements. Goodman is scheduled to testify at a July 23 public hearing in Washington, D.C. [Broadcasting & Cable]

DirecTV-10, the DBS provider’s delayed HD-boosting satellite, is scheduled to finally launch tonight.

Microsoft will take a $1.05 billion to $1.15 billion pre-tax charge related to Xbox 360 repairs; details in Microsoft’s press release and on the Xbox website. [AP | Bloomberg | Marketwatch]

Optibase tendered a partial cash offer for Scopus Video Networks. Click here for Thursday’s 360AM news briefing »

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

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