360AM — Morning news briefing for Monday, Mar. 19 [Updated 8pm ET]

• TOP STORIES

Comcast is beta-testing a mobile version of its Comcast.net portal. Comcast.net Mobile offers news, local weather, Web access and Comcast’s TVPlanner guide to any WAP 2.0-enabled mobile device. The URL is mobilebeta.comcast.net; more information on the Comcast Interactive Media Labs initiative is here.

Separately, the Wall Street Journal reported Saturday that Comcast is unhappy with its current Google search deal on Comcast.net and is negotiating to use Microsoft‘s Web search services instead. "Comcast thinks it should get a larger share of the revenue generated by the [Google] arrangement," writes the WSJ. "It also is unhappy about other terms of the deal, these people say." There are also ad sales implications: "The cable company is talking to Microsoft, Yahoo Inc. and Time Warner Inc.’s AOL unit about a three-year deal to sell 80% of the advertising on Comcast.net, people said. Comcast is holding on to the other 20% and advertising on its other sites to help it build an in-house broadband sales staff."

The Television Bureau of Advertising today released its latest Nielsen data crunch and finds that satellite TV has expanded to 29.2% pay TV market share (from 9.5% in Feb. 2000) while cable TV fell to 71% (from 89% in Feb. 2000). According to the TVB, satellite TV, with 29 million subscribers, now reaches 25.2% of all TV households. In the past year, cable’s subscriber base fell by 2.3 million subs to 68.3 million and penetration fell from 64.1% to 61.3% of TV households, its lowest since Feb. 1990. [MediaWeek]

According to Nielsen‘s report out today, the average U.S. home now has 104.2 TV channels; the total U.S. TV universe is 111.4 million homes; TV sets outnumber people (2.8 to 2.5 per HH); the number of homes with cable decreased from 68% in 2005 to 64% in 2006, while digital cable now accounts for 28% of the TV universe vs. 23% for satellite or specialized antenna systems. [Nielsen release]

Nielsen Monitor-Plus also reported that U.S. ad spending rose 4.6% in 2006 vs. 2005 while national cable TV spending increased 1.8% in that time period [Release]. TNS Media Intelligence last week estimated 2006 vs. ’05 overall ad spending growth at 4.1% and cable network spending up 3.4% [Release].

NCTA announced its 2007 Vanguard Award winners. Amy Tykeson, CEO, BendBroadband and Brian Roberts, chairman and CEO, Comcast, share the 2007 Vanguard for distinguished leadership. Individual category awards will be presented to Alicin Reidy-Williamson, SVP, corporate responsibility and public affairs, MTV Networks (young leadership); John Bickham, president, cable and communications, Cablevision (cable operations management); Phil Kent, chairman and CEO, Turner Broadcasting System (programmer); Chris Bowick, SVP and CTO, Cox Communications (science and technology); Libby O’Connell, SVP, Corporate Outreach, A&E Television Networks (government and community relations); Patricia Gottesman, EVP, Product management and marketing, Cablevision (marketing); and Cathy Wilson, founder/president/publisher, Broadband Library (associates and affiliates). They will be honored at a ceremony on May 8, during The Cable Show in Las Vegas.



• COMPETITION

AT&T is launching U-verse in Kansas City. [Kansas City Business Journal]

EchoStar named PixelPlay Dish Network’s "Developer of the Year" and "Marketer of the Year" at its 6th annual ITV Summit, citing a 99.3% success rate in tech tests. [Release]



• ONLINE

ABC Family will repeat the Mar. 26 season finale of Wildfire on Lycos. The ad-free episode will be available on the site for six days immediately after the 8pm ET on-air telecast, or two hours before the West coast feed. [AP]

Lime launches Live the Change campaign. [Release]

MTV‘s new Daily Rage site is "something of an online scavenger hunt," plugging its shows and advertisers as Web surfers collect points and compete for prizes. [The Hollywood Reporter]

TV veteran Steven Bochco today launches his first attempt at online programming: Cafe Confidential, a 44-clip collection on video site Metacafe, featuring real teens and 20-somethings divulging amusing, semi-confessional stories. Metacafe underwrote the cost of the producer’s project and will share ad revenue with Bochco. [Release | AP | Los Angeles Times | The Hollywood Reporter]

Google acquired Adscape Media, which inserts ads into videogames; Adscape exec Bernie Stolar is now Google’s Dean of Games. [Google FAQ | Blog]

Movie Gallery, the video retailer that just acquired MovieBeam, is getting into online rentals. [Release]

Movielink, the studio-owned movie download service, took a stake in IP VOD service Akimbo. [PaidContent]

MySpace today launched a political channel for the 2008 Presidential campaign, following YouTube’s similar YouChoose channel that launched last week. MySpace’s Impact Channel offers profiles for Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Rudy Giuliani, Duncan Hunter, Dennis Kucinich, John McCain, Barack Obama, Ron Paul and Mitt Romney. Each presidential hopeful’s site also features a customized, viral fundraising feature, a first in MySpace history. [Release]

YouTube kicks off its first awards today. Members can troll videos in seven genres and rank their favorites through Friday; trophies will be handed out on March 26. [Release]

Three New York Times film critics—A.O. Scott, Manohla Dargis and Noah Robischon—yesterday weighed in on movie downloading sites’ pros and cons. Today’s New York Times looks at Viacom‘s "full court press" for online ads that integrate its TV properties such as MTV Networks’ channels with its Web brands.



• PROGRAMMING

Marking the fourth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, cable programming today includes day-long coverage on MSNBC and two documentaries on Sundance Channel: The Road to Guantanamo and The Ground Truth.

BET scored its best March rating ever with Rip the Runway. [Release]

Discovery Health premieres Baby Madness on Mar. 31. [Release]

Food Network re-upped with Ina Garten for 20 eps/yr of The Barefoot Contessa, which she’s moving out of her kitchen and into a barn she’s converting into a TV studio. [NYT]

Fox News is negotiating to host up to two presidential debates with the Congressional Black Caucus Political Education and Leadership Institute. The move follows Democrats’ pull-out of a Fox News-hosted debate in Nevada following Fox News president Roger Ailes’ Obama/Osama joke while accepting a RTNDA Foundation Award on Mar. 8. CNN last week agreed to televise a Democratic presidential candidates’ debate organized by the CBC Institute in South Carolina and a Republican debate in a yet-to-be-determined location. [AP]

HGTV awarded its 2007 Dream Home giveaway last night to Robert O’Neill, whose name was drawn from more than 41 million entries. [Release]

New England Sports Network sent a memo to its broadcast affiliates Friday detailing new video restrictions. The Boston Red Sox and Boston Bruins-owned NESN move affects New England Cable News, Fox Sports New England and broadcast stations. [Boston Herald | Memo]

The Outdoor Channel is rebranding—dropping "The" to become Outdoor Channel only—with a new logo and on-air look debuting in May. The moves will be promoted at its New York upfront on Mar. 22. [Release] Outdoor Channel Holdings CEO Roger Werner said Friday the network is reducing its affiliate fees in order to expanding its subscriber base; it’s also boosting CPMs this year, with advertisers paying 20-40% more for spots.

QVC will sell sunken treasure: 360,000 coins recovered from the wreck of El Cazador, a Spanish brig-of-war that sank in early 1784 during a storm in the Gulf of Mexico as it attempted to reach Louisiana. [Wilmington Star]

Scripps Networks hired Deanna Brown as president of its newly formed Interactive Group. Brown, former GM of Yahoo Media Group’s Lifestyles unit, AOL’s VP/GM of Life Management division and CEO of Inside.com, reports to Scripps Networks president John Lansing and is based in New York. [PaidContent]

Showtime is streaming the first two episodes of The Tudors on its website (click here) ahead of the series’ linear premiere on Apr. 1.

VH1 touts Showstopper pod-busting test to advertisers. [MediaWeek]

WWE expands its 24/7 VOD affiliates with Charter Communications launch on Mar. 29. [Release]



• VENDORS

BigBand‘s IPO last week boosted Time Warner Cable; TWC’s 1.68 million shares are worth about $28 million based on Friday’s closing price of $16.66 a share. [GigaOm]

CommScope bought RF broadband provider Signal Vision. [AP]

Microtune introduces 1-GhZ MOCA-compatible cable tuners. [Release]

Samsung today unveiled a wireless HD set-top box at a European trade show. [InformationWeek]

TOA Technologies inks deal with Cox Communications for mobile workforce management. [Release]



• IN OTHER NEWS

Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts received restricted stock worth about $5.3 million and an option to buy 548,000 class A shares [MarketWatch] while Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg received compensation worth $20.2 million according to an SEC filing today [AP].

The New York Post examines a challenge to marketers: more than a dozen states from Hawaii to New York are weighing "do not mail" bills.

Nissan today introduces a campaign to promote the 2007 Altima sedan by scattering 20,000 fake key rings in bars, sports arenas and other public venues in seven markets. A tag plugging Altima’s key-less push button ignition directs finders online for more details. [New York Times]

Shirley Brady

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