360AM — Morning news briefing for Monday, Apr. 16 (Updated: 8pm ET)

Breaking: CNN was the first cable news network with coverage of the massacre at Virginia Tech today that left at least 33 dead including the gunman. Reports followed on Fox News Channel and then MSNBC, according to TV Newser. CNN.com registered more than 900,000 views by 1pm ET of the cellphone video captured by Virginia Tech grad student Jamal Albarghouti that he sent to CNN’s I-Report user-submitted video service. Denver Post TV critic Joanne Ostrow took issue with today’s coverage, including the constant repeating of Albarghouti’s footage. CNN is preempting its on-air tribute to Larry King’s 50th anniversary as a broadcaster this week; instead, King will cover the Virginia Tech live on-air.



Earlier: Comcast is launching a new and improved version of The Fan, its online video player on Comcast.net. A sneak peek on Comcast Interactive Media’s CIM Labs site touts version 4.0 of the video portal (click here) which features personalized playlists, related video suggestions, YouTube-like video-sharing and a library of almost 70,000 videos including American Idol clips from FOX and CBS Survivor updates. Web developers are most excited about this version’s use of Adobe Flex instead of Flash, as CIM developer Arpit Mathur outlines on his blog and CIM software engineer Karl Martino talks up on his blog. Comcast is moving into Web video (and particularly user-generated content) in a big way with its Ziddio portal and upcoming entertainment portal Fancast (powered by Fandango, for which PaidContent estimates Comcast paid around $192 million.) Comcast’s CIM unit is staffing up as the company expands its Web network. As its CIMlife (shades of SimLife) recruitment page trumpets: "¡REVOLUCIÓN! We’re leading the convergence revolution."

As Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts explains to the Boston Globe, the company’s bigger goal is to create a seamless mobile experience that incorporates video with the company’s other services. "Over time it’s going to be interoperability. Can I take my e-mail and get it on another device? I’ve been watching my on-demand shows, I’ve stopped watching at home, I want to finish the last five minutes. Place won’t matter. There’ll be a relationship with the company that will manage my data, my television, my phone, my address books, and my voice mails. The seamless nature of that is what mobility brings."

The #2 MSO hasn’t been a slouch in the Web video department: Time Warner Cable recently beefed up its high-speed online portal with the Road Runner Video Channel, featuring content from AP, CNN, Music Choice and other providers. TWC also just brought PhotoShow TV to the mainland with an April 12 launch in Staten Island, NY, that follows the service’s debut on TWC Hawaii. Click here for a YouTube upload of TWC’s PhotoShow TV spot in Staten Island.

Update: Comcast announced a deal today with NBC Universal and News Corp. for Web video: Comcast.net’s The Fan and Fancast.com will distribute NBCU and FOX content while Comcast Networks’ content from E!, Style, G4, Versus and Golf Channel will be made available on a non-exclusive basis on the NBCU-News Corp. Web video website launching this summer. Comcast Interactive Media’s ThePlatform is also enabling video delivery on the NBCU-News Corp. portal. "We are pleased to have the best of NBC and Fox’s TV content available to our customers on Comcast.net and Fancast.com," said Comcast cable president Steve Burke in a statement. "Making TV content available on multiple devices will enable our customers to view their favorite shows on television, online and on video-on-demand."



• COMPETITION

AT&T has applied to offer U-verse TV service in at least 21 communities throughout metro Detroit in its bid to challenge Comcast. [Detroit Free Press] As AT&T introduces U-verse in Milwaukee, Time Warner Cable files financial statements with the city comptroller’s office to document its franchise fee payments. TWC Milwaukee’s reports show a 7% revenue increase last year (to $76.7 million) based on higher sub revenue and DVR sales. [Milwaukee Business Journal]

Verizon FiOS TV spokesman Brian Elek tells the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, "Our decision was to create the most robust and future-proof network we could. So, regardless of what the next hot thing is, whatever those two kids come up with in the garage that everybody thinks is really cool, we are going to be prepared." The company is also going green for Earth Day. [Release]

Comcast‘s Brian Roberts, in the Boston Globe interview noted above, says AT&T and Verizon don’t scare him: "Having lived through 12 years of satellite competition, it’s made Comcast a better company. We’ve improved our service, we’ve tried to fix whatever deficiencies we had, and it’s forced us to innovate." He also talks up biz services and says the Roberts household is "hooked on" American Idol although Dad prefers golf (presumably on the company’s Golf Channel) and news networks.

Cablevision is testing a $14.95 price point for its phone and high-speed online offering in a move to combat Verizon‘s aggressive marketing in its footprint, blogs Om Malik.



• PROGRAMMING

The top 4 broadcast nets are collectively down 11% (dropping to 13.4%) in Adults 18-49; Nielsen’s live-only ratings through Apr. 8 (but not including the Super Bowl) shows the broadcasters’ slump following "three years of relatively stable viewing," writes MediaPost.

Al Jazeerah‘s English network launched a branded channel on YouTube. [New York Times] Its only U.S. cable carriage is in local markets reached by Buckeye Cable in Ohio and Vermont PBS, which is carried on Comcast. AP says Comcast Detroit, home to a large community of Arab Americans, passed on the network.

Azteca America says the FCC denied a request by NBCU-owned Telemundo to withhold a license renewal of its Los Angeles affiliate. [Release]

Bravo‘s upcoming Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style series started casting online where fans can also download the first chapter of Gunn’s companion book for free.

Cartoon Network‘s Aqua Teen Hunger Force movie placed 13th at the box office this weekend, earning $3.09 million on 877 screens. [Release]

CBS peeved that last week’s Don Imus flap diverted attention from its digital media announcement of online network [LA Times]; CBS head Les Moonves also irked that NBCU‘s Jeff Zucker beat him to the punch in axing Imus, says the New York Post.

CNN staffers encouraged to wear suspenders to work today in show of support for Larry King, whose 50th anniversary in broadcasting is being lauded in CNN primetime this week. A best of Larry King Live DVD hits stores tomorrow. Update: the planned on-air tribute to King was cancelled for coverage of the shooting at Virginia Tech.

CNN HD, slated to launch later this year, tapped Sony‘s XDCAM high-definion cameras for its studio production and field newsgathering operations, it was announced at NAB today.

Pew study finds highest number of correct answers in current affairs quiz among viewers of Comedy Central‘s The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, tied at 54% with regular readers of major newspapers. PBS viewers of the Lehrer News Hour followed just behind. [Editor & Publisher | AP | Pew study: Summary & PDF]

Discovery Channel‘s Earth Day eve special, the Thomas Friedman-hosted Green: The New Red, White and Blue airing Apr. 21, offered a sneak preview in yesterday’s Sunday New York Times magazine cover. [Release] Discovery will run an all-day marathon of the 11-episode series Planet Earth from 9am-midnight on Earth Day among other green programming on its sister networks including Animal Planet has Spring Watch USA on 4/21, The Science Channel airs Cool Fuel and Meltdown: A Global Warming on 4/22. [Release]

Filipino Channel parent ABS-CBN International taps NeuLion (part-owned by Cablevision founder Chuck Dolan) for IPTV. [Release]

HBO started touting its Oscar De La Hoya vs. Floyd Mayweather Jr. fight on May 5 with a four-part behind-the-scenes series that debuted last night. The $54.95 megabout "could be the first fight in history to draw 2 million pay-per-view buys," says the San Antonio Express-News.

LatinAmerican Broadcasting signed a deal wtih Equity Media Holdings Corp. to launch in 22 cities. [Salt Lake Tribune]

NBC rejoined NAB today; it withdrew in March 2000 over policy disagreements concerning TV deregulation. [Release]

Nick‘s second season Let’s Just Play Go Health Challenge kicks off Apr. 29. [Release]

Nick Jr.‘s Ni Hao, Kai-lan!, a 20-episode animated series for pre-schoolers launching in August, featured in the New York Times.

Playboy named Tom Hagopian EVP/GM of digital media.

Showtime‘s On Broadband Networks games service (launching in Q3) is powered by Microsoft. [Release] Showtime is offering a free DVD with three episodes (Weeds, The Tudors and Dexter) to Best Buy customers who purchase any TV show on DVD. Showtime today confirmed second season pick-ups for The Tudors and This American Life and its five-episode series with Tracey Ullman.

The Tennis Channel and DirecTV sign carriage agreement for full-time launch to around 8 million DirecTV customers in late August, nearly doubling the sports net’s current audience of about 10 million homes. All 16 million DirecTV viewers get a sneak preview during the French Open (also covered by ESPN) from May 27-June 10, with six channels dedicated to French Open matches. As part of the DTV deal, TTC will launch an HD network by December. Eric Shanks, DirecTV’s EVP of entertainment, says of Tennis Channel head Ken Solomon to the Associated Press: "Kenny’s done a great job at acquiring high-profile events and he really is making The Tennis Channel ‘THE Tennis Channel.’" [Los Angeles Times | Variety | AP]

TV Guide Channel paid $6.7 million to Viacom for a 3-year license to rerun VH1‘s celebreality series starting with The Surreal Life, Flavor of Love and My Fair Brady, which will be packaged in a latenight block in July. TV Guide will have exclusive cable TV and satellite rights to the series and VH1 will not repeat any of the licensed episodes during the 3-year window. Other series included in the 135-episode deal: Strange Love, Fame Games, I Love New York and Flavor of Love Charm School. [Release | Variety]

VH1‘s Celeb Fit Club returns for season 5 on Sunday, Apr. 22 with a cast including Maureen "Marcia Brady" McCormick. [Release]

The Weather Channel announces Earth Day programming line-up.

Five multi-network programming groups signed transport deals with SES Americom to join its IP-PRIME IPTV line-up: Comcast Networks, Fox Cable Networks, NBC Universal, Showtime Networks and Turner Broadcasting. [Release]



• ADVERTISING

After nixing any involvement in the proposed eBay online ad sales exchange, the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau announced a successful test by A&E Television Networks and ad agency Universal McCann of CAB’s new e-business electronic platform developed by Donovan Data Systems that aims to improve the connection between cable TV networks and media buyers and planners. [Release] CAB president and CEO Sean Cunningham previously worked at Universal McCann, as did Danielle DeLauro, who’s heading up the e-Biz initiative as CAB’s VP sales and marketing.

Comcast Networks introduces "breakbusters," using original content to engage viewers through commercial breaks on E!, G4, Versus and its other channels. [Mediaweek]

As Google inks a long-term agreement to place radio ads on Clear Channel stations [Release | AP] and announces AdSense for Audio, Microsoft urges regulators to stop Google-DoubleClick deal (sour grapes after being outbid for the online ad firm?) AT&T also thinks "antitrust authorities should take a hard look at this deal and the implications." [NYT | Financial Times]

MTVN Entertainment Group EVP of ad sales Jeff Lucas merges Spike TV and Comedy Central ad sales teams. [Mediaweek]



• ONLINE

User-generated content poses the #1 threat to media and entertainment companies, according to a new Accenture survey; while 53% of 1003 people surveyed by Zogby (on behalf of Redback Networks) say they would replace their cable or satellite service with broadband TV and 74% believe a video-centric Internet would be "more dangerous" for kids.

Comcast.net‘s warnings to online bandwidth hogs makes a New York Times column and a blog.

Electronic Arts and UK reality TV producer Endemol launch Virtual Me, an avatar-based virtual online world where users can compete in online versions of Endemol formats such as Deal or No Deal. [Release]

Joost adds content from international producers including UK’s ALL3MEDIA and Wall to Wall productions and Canada’s Alliance Atlantis. [Release]

Lonelygirl15 creators produce an offshoot series to launch on Bebo in July. KateModern, a play on the Tate Modern museum, will follow a London university student through video; fans can also interact via email, gameplaying and uploading their own videos. Post-launch it will expand to LG15.com and other websites.

Steve Case’s RevolutionHealth portal goes live this week; healthcare also a big focus of Case’s Lime, a non-linear brand fka Wisdom TV.

TV Guide launched an online video guide at video.tvguide.com.

The New York Times’ Richard Siklos on perusing Web video sites: "I went from impressed to entertained to indifferent to bored. In other words, it was just like watching TV."



• TECH

CableLabs announced a three-tiered qualification process for DOCSIS 3.0.

Microsoft made a number of announcements at the NAB Show today, including its new "vision for creating, managing and experiencing content" with the launch of Silverlight, a cross-platform, cross-browser plug-in that’s supported by Akamai, Brightcove, Eyeblaster, Limelight Networks, Major League Baseball and Netflix; and Interactive Media Manager, which aims to "connect people, processes and rich content." Its IPTV "ecoystem" added new tech partners: AMD, Intel, Pirelli, Sun and Thomson‘s Grass Valley. Microsoft returns to Vegas with MIX, a Web developer conference it’s calling a "72-hour conversation" from Apr. 30-May 2. MLB released a separate announcement on its MSFT partnership. Microsoft also announced a TV show competition for Xbox Live in partnership with the New York Television Festival.

Also at NAB: Adobe unveiled new video-player software that allows video to be played online or off-line [Reuters] while IBM announced broadcasting partners including FOX for HD video compression. Samsung and Nokia announced they will cooperate on mobile TV interoperability while Samsung announced an A-VSB mode for broadcasters to create mobile content using existing facilities and spectrum. Harmonic announced it’s working with Microsoft TV on IPTV; Streamliner, a system to help operators with limited bandwidth offer VOD; and Ingest Gateway to help process content for On Demand applications. Sinclair Broadcasting voiced support for the Open Mobile Video Coalition that was announced Friday by the company with fellow broadcasters (including Fox, NBC and Tribune) on the eve of NAB.

Motorola shareholders lobbied by Carl Icahn to add him to the board; Icahn and his partners hold a 2.9% stake in the company, which holds its annual meeting May 7. [Wall Street Journal | WSJ-Icahn letter | Reuters]

Shirley Brady

• Click here for 360AM news briefing for Friday, Apr. 16 >>

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