Cable360AM — News briefing for Wednesday, June 6 »

CBS Corp. projects $250 million in retransmission consent fees from cable operators by 2010, pres/CEO Les Moonves told the Deutsche Bank Securities Media & Telecommunications Conference in New York yesterday. Moonves also told analysts that "the financial picture at Showtime is very, very bright" and confirmed the company’s agreement to go with live-plus-three-day ratings in this year’s TV upfront ad sales negotiations. The Hollywood Reporter has more.

Cox Communications and the Sinclair Broadcast Group ended their retransmission consent stand-off by signing a four-year agreement that covers standard-definition and HD/digital broadcast signals for nine Sinclair stations in six Cox markets: Las Vegas, Oklahoma City, Norfolk and Richmond, VA, Springfield, MA and Pensacola, FL/Mobile, AL. With this deal completed, Sinclair said it has renewed retransmission consent agreements with all major cable operators in its markets.

Astound Broadband, the tiny Concord, CA-based operator that put itself at the frontline of TV advertising’s future (if Google has its way) by testing the search engine giant’s AdSense system for cable spots, has tapped BigBand Networks for delivery of regionally-targeted TV ads to its digital subscribers. Google, meanwhile, is pushing its aggressive advertising plans by expanding its Audio Ads platform, reports Clickz. Google’s AdWords for radio initiative is being challenged by the eBay Media Marketplace, the nascent online ad exchange rejected by the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau and embraced by Oxygen, which today starts brokering radio ads. [More on eBay’s radio move: New York Times | Wall Street Journal | Reuters | MediaPost | Computer World] More on Google below.

HBO‘s appointment yesterday of Bill Nelson to lead a revamped executive team was generally favored by Hollywood’s creative community including series producers David Simon (The Wire) and David Milch (Deadwood, John From Cincinnati), although one agent tells to the Los Angeles Times it’s not the same since Chris Albrecht left: "Who do you call? Before, it was pretty clear." HBO subscribers couldn’t care less, if the blogosphere is any indication: they’re salivating for the finale of The Sopranos along with online bookies, with sites including Bodog.com pegging Tony (at 1 to 3 that he lives, 2 to 1 that he dies) and Paulie as favorites to survive Sunday. The other horse-race: will the series’ highly anticipated conclusion top the New Orleans Saints’ return to the Superdome last September as the highest-watched show in cable history? Given this season’s gambling theme, it’s fitting that James Gandolfini and castmates will be watching Sunday’s finale at a casino—a paid gig, notes the New York Post.

Verizon officials met with derision (and state officials) yesterday in Boston, where lawmakers are considering a statewide franchise bill. Donna Cupelo, Verizon’s VP for Massachusetts and Rhode Island, was "hissed and heckled" at a packed meeting of the Joint Committee on Utilities, Telecommunications, and Energy, reports the Boston Globe. (Cupelo’s statement is here). Verizon launched FiOS TV in 16 additional communities in New Jersey, where it now services 196 markets in the state and offers triple-play FiOS TV/Internet/voice bundles from $94.99/month. Verizon also brought its "hot broadband at a cool new price" deal to New York, offering DSL for $14.99-$19.99 a month in a limited summer promotion, and announced a 30-day "free test-drive" for new high-speed subscribers who sign up online.

Sling Media signed a deal with the National Hockey League for its Clip+Sling service.

RCN launched voice, video and broadband bundles for the small- and medium-sized business market priced at $21/month for unlimited telephone service and $38/month for unlimited local, regional and long-distance service; digital cable packages are priced separately while "additional product enhancements and launches are anticipated."



• PROGRAMMING

A&E‘s stunt with illusionist Criss Angel, unsurprisingly, went off without a hitch; he escaped his Times Square cement lock-box in time for last night’s season premiere. [Reuters]

Bravo premieres Top Chef: 4-Star All-Stars, a Top Chef season 1 and 2 cook-off special, tonight at 10pm.

CNN averaged 1,088,000 viewers 25-54 for Sunday night’s Democratic presidential candidates’ debate—the highest viewership of any cable TV debate this year, notes The Hollywood Reporter. CNN’s Anderson Cooper will receive the 21st annual Mickey Leland Humanitarian Award at the NAMIC conference, Sept. 16-18 in New York.

Fox News Channel downplayed yesterday’s Scooter Libby sentencing, charges Media Matters for America.

Fox Sports New England will be rebranded and enhanced with a thrice-daily newscast and original talk shows when Comcast assumes ownership later this year. [Boston Globe]

FX‘s finale of The Shield last night drew a mash note from New York Times critic Virginia Heffernan.

GSN signed comedian Dennis Miller to host Grand Slam, its uber-game show for brainiacs that launches Aug. 7 and tapes its first episode today in New York; and also signed a deal with the UK’s Two Way TV to become the first U.S. network to launch interactive mobile features for its live programming. Launching with this summer’s High Stakes Poker and World Series of Blackjack Monday night casino programming, GSN viewers will be able to play along using "game texting" via SMS on their cellphones, a first for the U.S. The mobile interactivity, also being pitched to advertisers, builds on GSN’s track record as an ITV pioneer — the network tested two-screen interactivity with Time Warner Cable‘s Oceanic system in Hawaii in 2002, followed by one-screen interactive in 2004.

Hallmark Channel hired Barbara Fisher, former Lifetime programming head (from 2002-04), as SVP of programming. She’s helping Hallmark EVP of programming David Kenin line up original movie suppliers now that parent Crown Media’s relationship with the Halmi company has ended. [Variety | Hollywood Reporter]

HDNet picked up all 13 episodes of NBC’s The Black Donnellys, which was pulled after six episodes, starting June 13.

Lifetime‘s debut of Army Wives on Sunday scored 3.5 million viewers, its most watched original series premiere ever. Video streaming of the series’ first episode on lifetimetv.com increased 94% over the weekend. Lifetime will premiere original movie The Murder of Princess Diana (sure to spark an outcry) in August, pegged to the 10th anniversary of Diana’s death. Jennifer Morrison, aka Dr. Allison Cameron on the Fox hit series House, stars in the production from UK’s Working Title Television, the TV arm of Working Title Films.

MTV increased viewership for Sunday’s MTV Movie Awards (its first live telecast) to 3.6 million viewers, up from last year’s 3.2 million. MTV yesterday promoted Dan Hart to SVP/GM for MTV Digital and upped Paul DeBenedittis to VP of operations and Colin Helms to VP of programming.

Nickelodeon is being targeted by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which releases a study in the July issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine that slams Nick for running commercials for unhealthy food and beverage products. Nick spokesperson Joanna Roses countered that 10% of its airtime is devoted to healthy eating and balanced lifestyle messages.

Oxygen stocked up on theatricals in a movie-buying spree that includes first network window plays on A Good Year, Trust the Man and Bandidas, a pre-buy on License to Wed (which opens next month), plus Shallow Hal, Music & Lyrics, and Catch & Release. Additional titles it can start airing in 2013 (after FX): The Devil Wears Prada, John Tucker Must Die, Just My Luck, My Super Ex-Girlfriend and Taxi. Oxygen programming president Debby Beece’s goal when shopping for movies, which it airs nightly in primetime: "pictures that women would like to watch and men won’t throw up over." [Variety]

Scripps Networks will distribute DVDs of its cable networks’ programming via Warner Music’s WEA division.

Showtime signed Peter O’Toole to play Pope Paul III for a seven-episode arc on season 2 of The Tudors. [Variety]

TNT‘s Cavs-Pistons NBA playoffs game was the highest basic cable telecast last week with 7.4 million viewers and a 4.9 rating — click here for the rest of Nielsen’s top 10 for the week of May 28-June 3.

TV Guide Network will premiere Making News: Texas Style, a reality series about a CBS affiiate in Midland-Odessa, TX, on June 11th.

Univision has invited presidential candidates to participate in the first White House hopefuls debate to be conducted entirely in Spanish. It plans to hold two debates, one for each party, on consecutive Sundays in September in Miami. [Los Angeles Times]

Wine Television signed Bravo’s Top Chef 2 contestant Stephen Asprinio to host Wine Chefs. The start-up network, created by John Atanasio (whose Art World Television may have a content deal with Comcast, judging by its website), Wine Television is planning to launch online in September and is in discussions with distributors and Internet portals. It’s competing with the similarly-named San Francisco-based Wine Network that’s now on OEN and Akimbo in the US and available internationally; CableWorld has more.



• ONLINE

ILECs signed up fewer high-speed subscribers in the 1st quarter (1.5 million) than the 1.7 million net adds registered in 1Q06, according to research from Fitch on incumbent local exchange carriers, or local telephone companies.

BravoTV.com adds a slate of new Web originals this month, including My Life on the Z-List: Jen’s Vlog (in which comedian Billy Eichner faux-blogs as a Bravo intern), Miami Spice: Hot Recipes with Latin Flavor (pegged to Top Chef 3), Top Recipe: The Wong Way to Cook (new episodes from Top Chef alum Lee Anne Wong), and Ask a Gay Man (on Trio spin-off, OUTzoneTV.com).

Bloomberg examines Google’s lobbying efforts this morning, while more parties joined the copyright-infringement class action suit filed by soccer’s Premiere League and the Bourne Co., a music publisher, against Google’s YouTube: Cherry Lane Music Publishing Co., whose catalog includes Quincy Jones, Elvis Presley, the Black Eyed Peas and John Legend; and France’s national tennis organization (Federation Francaise de Tennis) and the French soccer league (Ligue de Football Professionel).

CBS invested in TicketReserve.com, a Web broker for premier live events.

LIN TV announced a Web video deal for its broadcast stations’ content with VMIX.

NBC Universal tapped Clearspring Technologies to create widgets around its Web video content so online users can personalize and share its video from series (including Dateline, Hardball with Chris Matthews, Meet the Press, NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams) on websites, blogs, social network pages, wikis and other platforms.

Time Warner Cable‘s Road Runner high-speed online service will incorporate local business news content from dBusinessNews.com.



• IN OTHER NEWS

Wisc. Democratic Party chairman Joe Wineke will stop lobbying for AT&T on a statewide video franchise bill. [AP]

Click! Network turns 10 in Tacoma, WA, with a rebranding to Click! Cable TV, a new website, a new slogan ("Your Local Choice"), a new VOD channel for local programming and a new corporate color: purple. [News Tribune, Tacoma, WA]

C-COR sold its outside plant and installation services business to Source Broadband Services for $7 million.

WorldGate will provide its Ojo videophone to BroadVoice customers.

Former NBC Universal VP/group information officer Randi Levin was named new chief technology officer and general manager of the Los Angeles Information and Technology Agency (ITA), which oversees the city’s cable franchises. Her appointment is subject to the approvl of the City Council.

A scientist with a PhD (or so he says) wrote a letter to the editor complaining he found Comcast‘s self-install upgrade impossible to complete. [Business Gazette, MD]

Shirley Brady

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