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

Cablevision‘s Rainbow Media Holdings is selling the company’s interests in Fox Sports Net New England and FSN Bay Area to Comcast for $570 million in cash. Upon completion of the transactions, Comcast will own 100% of FSN New England and 60% of FSN Bay Area—with the other 40% still held by News Corp.—while Cablevision will have divested its RSN holdings beyond New York [Release]. The move shores up Comcast’s regional sports networks, which it’s reportedly looking to expand by building an RSN around Paul Allen’s Portland Trail Blazers franchise. Separately, Cablevision chairman Chuck Dolan reportedly pitched New York Yankees‘ owner George Steinbrenner on buying the valuable MLB franchise (Steinbrenner’s reply: "Absolutely not") according to the New York Post‘s two weekend stories (Saturday and Sunday) that picked up on SI’s scoop on Friday.

Comcast today named Yahoo! its primary marketing and ad sales partner for Comcast.net. Comcast Spotlight, the company’s ad sales division, will continue to sell Comcast.net as part of its cross-platform bundle, while Yahoo will handle ad-serving, targeting and inventory management to Comcast.net’s online display and videos ads. The companies will create sponsorships and custom advertising packages for the redesigned Comcast.net later this year, including "enhanced features, user experience and new advertising opportunities across the site," according to the release. Not included in this deal: Comcast.net’s search advertising and Comcast Interactive Media’s other Web properties (Ziddio, FearNet, Fancast, Vehix, RecRoom). Yahoo today announced it’s acquiring Right Media for $680 million in a bid to create an online ad exchange and challenge Google, which recently acquired DoubleClick with a similar goal. [Release | Bloomberg | PaidContent | Wall Street Journal]

Cox Communications received the go-ahead from California’s PUC to provide cable TV service in four areas of San Diego that Time Warner Cable now serves: Stonebridge Estates, Del Sur, Qualcomm Stadium and the University of San Diego campus. Cox is the first cable company to take advantage of the state PUC’s new video franchising rules. [San Diego Union-Tribune] Separately in SoCal, Cox is involved in a retransmission consent stand-off with KEYT, an ABC affiliate in Santa Barbara, CA. Cox dropped KEYT, running a message on the blacked out station’s former channel slot that the signal had ceased due to stalled contract negotiations over its digtal HD signal. [Santa Barbara Independent]

Florida‘s statewide video franchise bill (HB 529) passed the House today in a 117-2 vote (after being ratified by the Senate on Friday) and is being sent to Gov. Charlie Crist for approval. [AP]



• COMPETITION

Verizon added 141,000 net new FiOS TV customers between Jan. 1 and Mar. 31 to end the 1st quarter with 348,000 customers, according to its earnings report this morning. [Earnings call transcript – Seeking Alpha]

AT&T‘s incoming CEO Randall Stephenson is profiled in BusinessWeek.

DirecTV CEO Chase Carey received $6.5 million in compensation last year. [AP] DirecTV also is bringing Shell’s global interactive "Eureka" ad campaign to the U.S. [Release]

Vudu, a peer-to-peer Web-distributed movie service offering more than 5,000 titles from every top studio except Sony, emerged from stealth mode—click here for more info.



• PROGRAMMING


AMC launches a new class movie franchise, AMC Gold, with Oscar-winner Sergeant Gold in October. Other titles slated for the block include On the Waterfront (also airing Wed. night on Turner Classic Movies as part of TCM’s two-night Brando tribute this week), From Here to Eternity, Witness, Apollo 13 and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

AZN will air the 2007 AZN Asian Excellence Awards (co-hosted by Lost’s Daniel Dae Kim and Battlestar Galactica’s Grace Park) on May 28 at 8pm ET/PT. [Release]

CNN belatedly tips its hat to Larry King’s 50th anniversary in broadcasting with a primetime tribute this week that was originally intended to run the week of the Virginia Tech shootings. LKL’s schedule: Oprah Winfrey tomorrow night, Katie Couric on Wednesday and Bill Maher and surprise guests on Friday. A two-hour special, Larry King: 50 Years of Pop Culture, airs Thursday at 9pm.

Comedy Central revealed its summer programming slate and a multi-platform season 2 for Live at Gotham starting May 18. The Viacom-owned net also is developing a feature film unit. [Variety]

ExerciseTV will launch on Bresnan Communications’ systems as a free VOD channel in July.

Great American Country launched an online travel guide for country music fans who want to use their vacation days to catch their favorite artists on tour. [Release]

History Channel announced six specials ahead of AETN‘s upfront tomorrow in New York; click here for details.

INHD, In Demand‘s high definition network, rebrands to Mojo tomorrow, adopting its swinging primetime persona on a 24/7 basis.

MTV‘s Los Angeles-based entertainment and programming president, Lois Curren, is scaling back to oversee a handful of projects with the bulk of MTV’s longform programming shifting to MTV’s New York-based EVP Tony DiSanto.

NBC Universal is a time- and money-waster for GE—according to Citigroup analyst Jeffrey Sprague, who says CEO Jeff Immelt should dump NBCU as it "continues to mute the strong performance" in the company’s other businesses. [New York Post | Bloomberg] NBCU’s newly anointed chief Jeff Zucker is profiled in today’s Fortune magazine with an inside peek at how MTVN chairman Judy McGrath wowed (with champagne) and then bowed out of participating in NBCU’s broadband video portal (the yet-to-be-branded portal—whose working name is NewSite or NewCo—slated for late summer) with News Corp.

Ovation TV relaunches in June with a new on-air look (that’s already in evidence) and local arts partners in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago to provide affiliate marketing opportunities and resources for local VOD content. The channel launches June 20 on DirecTV, which will more than triple its 5.4 million current subscribers with Comcast and Time Warner Cable. Click here for Seth Arenstein’s commentary on Ovation’s rebranding. [Release]

Ripe Digital Entertainment launched its third hybrid VOD/broadband/mobile channel today: Flow TV, a hip hop lifestyle portal for broadband and mobile with cable carriage as a free On Demand channel on Comcast and Time Warner Cable. It joins the guy-centric Ripe TV and the car/gearhead-oriented Octane TV.

The N staged a town hall for teens hosted by Rosie O’Donnell today in New York. Zach Braff introduced the "verbal mash-up" that introduced findings from the second phase of the network’s Millennial Values research study. The N’s quasi-upfront research event (similar to TV Land’s recent boomer demographics confab featuring a keynote speech by uber-boomer Bill Clinton) also featured cast members from The N’s hit Degrassi: The Next Generation series and the Broadway musical, Spring Awakening.

The Tennis Channel co-founder Steve Bellamy is back with a new sports network that’s launching in 1Q08: The Ski Channel, a VOD-only play that signed Time Warner Cable as its launch affiliate. The network won’t be snowbound, and will cover on- and off-slope activities including rock climbing, hiking, orienteering, spelunking (caving) and related concerns: news, travel, real estate, equipment, instruction and coverage of professional mountain sports. Bellamy’s Atonal Sports and Entertainment shingle has been busy shooting programming in high definition, so HDVOD is also on the roadmap.

TV Guide Channel is rebranding to TV Guide Network on June 4. [Release]

VH1 Classic relaunched its website with thousands of videos and exclusive performances. [Release]



• ONLINE

Sony launches the Minisode Network in June, a series of webisodes that recap individual episodes of select series from Sony Picture Television’s library (including Charlie’s Angels, T.J. Hooker, Starsky and Hutch and Ricki Lake’s talk show) in under five minutes. The so-called minisodes will launch on MySpace in June and a standalone web portal will likely follow. Writes the New York Times, "The plan gained even more traction when Sony executives saw The Seven-Minute Sopranos, a condensation of the 77-hour HBO series that was posted on YouTube in March."

MySpace‘s owner and News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch writes in Forbes magazine that the future of media is one of "relentless experimentation and innovation, accelerating change, and—for those who embrace the new ways in which consumers are connecting with each other—enormous potential." YouTube co-founder Chad Hurley also writes in Forbes (which may want to rebrand itself Spin magazine this issue) about the potential for content providers and media companies to partner with his now Google-owned Web video giant. Meanwhile, YouTube’s biggest concern to media companies and content players—piracy—won’t be eased by a new start-up backed by $40 million funding from Morgan Stanley: Flip Video, which enables video bootlegs to be uploaded in seconds onto YouTube, Grouper and other user-generated video portals. [New York Post]

CBS licensed Microsoft‘s Silverlight media player to allow its TV station websites to integrate user-generated content including uploading, sharing, rating, commenting, sorting and seraching of video, images, audio and text submissions. [Release] The deal was highlighted at MIX07, Microsoft’s developers’ conference this week in Las Vegas, where Netflix, MLB, Akamai, Limelight Networks, Eyeblaster and Brightcove also were announced as Silverlight affiliates. More info in the keynote remarks by Microsoft’s Ray Ozzie and Scott Guthrie.

Cox Communications tapped Miss America 2007 Laura Nelson to tape PSA spots for Take Charge, its online safety awareness campaign. [Release]

Intel announced it’s sponsoring free Skype calls anywhere in North America on Mother’s Day.

Sling Media launched a Mac-friendly version of its SlingPlayer. [Release]

Bebo signed former MTV UK exec Angel Gambino as its global head of music. [Release]

Wall Street Journal checks in on kids using Club Penguin and other online virtual worlds.

TV news outlets take different approaches to putting Web video in amateurs’ hands: MSNBC.com restricted Web and blog redistribution of its recent Democratic presidential debate, gripes Ars Technica, while ABCNews.com is adding more video and wooing "citizen journalists," notes blogger Steve Rubell.

The BBC is launching an online video service later this year featuring its Microsoft-developed iPlayer and episodes from hit series including Doctor Who and EastEnders. [Release] Last week it receive the go-ahead to launch a free HD service, dubbed Freesat, in the UK. [Release]



• IN OTHER NEWS

Suddenlink expanded its phone service rollout in Arkansas. [KAIT]

Nielsen is assuming full ownership of BuzzMetrics and will merge with its other tracking services. [Release]

Rentrak named Ken Papagan company president and chief strategy officer, while Cathy Hetzel was promoted to president of the company’s Advanced Media and Information Division.

Narad is changing its name to PhyFlex Networks. [Release]

WSJ looks at mobile marketing and advertising; cellphone ads are expected to total about $3 billion worldwide this year.

AP finds HDTV users turning to $50 antennas to get free over-the-air signals.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer tells USA Today‘s David Lieberman there won’t be a Zune phone; click here for other highlights from their recent chat.

Shirley Brady

• Click here for 360AM news briefing for Friday, Apr. 27 >>

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