Cable360AM — News briefing for Wednesday, June 20 »
Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts explained the company’s grand (and local) vision to the Houston Chronicle yesterday, when the market officially rebranded as Comcast. Some tidbits in Roberts’ wooing of Houstonians: Comcast will add 10,000 employees this year; HDTV (and especially HD VOD) is top priority; he watched The Sopranos‘ finale live, not on Comcast On Demand (and unlike many of his customers, didn’t think his cable went out at the end); and Comcast’s $200 million investment in Houston is "probably the largest amount we’ve spent for an acquisition in one city." Meanwhile, Comcast’s old Texas domain in Dallas last year changed hands to Time Warner Cable, where the Dallas Morning News examines TW’s telephone ambitions and those of its competitors. In other Comcast news yesterday, the company received FTC approval to buy two regional sports networks from Cablevision‘s Rainbow Media Holdings: 100% of FSN New England and 60% of FSN Bay Area, with the balance still owned by News Corp. [Dow Jones] It’s also being sued by metro Nashville, which claims Comcast owes $5.4 million in back taxes and penalties. [Tennessean.com]
Disney CEO Bob Iger promoted Ben Pyne from president of Disney and ESPN Networks affiliate sales and marketing to president of global distribution for Disney-ABC Worldwide Television & Disney Media Networks, overseeing a new global distribution group that unifies its divisions. Pyne will report to Anne Sweeney, co-chairwoman of Disney Media Networks and president of Disney-ABC Television Group; Alan Bergman, president of Walt Disney Studios; and Sean Bratches, EVP of sales and marketing for ESPN and ABC Sports. As part of the realignment, Laurie Younger, president of Disney-ABC Worldwide Television, will retire when her contract expires in January. [Los Angeles Times | Marketwatch] Update: here’s the release, which notes that David Preschlack was promoted from SVP to EVP of Disney and ESPN Networks affiliate sales and marketing; he continues to report to Pyne and Bratches.
FCC chairman Kevin Martin, addressing NXTcomm in Chicago by satellite link (because his wife was in labor with their second child), said he endorses using Universal Service Fund revenues to subsidize broadband deployment in rural communities. [Dow Jones | GCN]
EchoStar and Liberty Media lost out in their joint bid for Intelsat, which was 76% acquired by UK-based private equity firm BC Partners for an estimated $4.6 billion. Meanwhile, EchoStar and Liberty’s DirecTV are pushing ahead on their partnership with Clearwire to offer high-speed Internet bundles; Forbes interviews Clearwire CEO Ben Wolff on his company’s ambitions.
AT&T announced 30 high definition channels plus local HD stations on its Homezone service, which integrates AT&T/Yahoo! high-speed online with Dish Network‘s satellite television and AT&T home networking. AT&T’s U-verse has expanded to Plano, TX and San Diego.
Speaking of Yahoo! — which has observers (such as ValleyWag and the Wall Street Journal) wondering if Terry Semel jumped, or was pushed, Monday — News Corp. is looking at selling its MySpace business and other online assets (such as IGN) in Fox Interactive Media to Yahoo, according to News Corp.’s own The Times of London. News Corp. head Rupert Murdoch is reportedly willing to sell MySpace and FIM to Yahoo in return for a 25% stake in the Web portal, now worth an estimated $37 billion. [More: CNBC | New York Times]
Verizon launched a trio of fixed-mobile convergence services for business mobility at NXTcomm; signed up its one-millionth FiOS Internet customer; and now has nearly 500,000 FiOS TV customers, CEO Ivan Seidenberg told NXTcomm. [Reuters | TheStreet.com] FiOS high-speed online topped PC World‘s 2007 ISP rankings, announced today; Cablevision and Cox Communications tied for 2nd place.
DirecTV is offering New York’s NBC affiliate, WNBC, to residents in Los Angeles for $5.99/mo. [TV Predictions]
Qwest tapped Motorola to offer VOD in Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland and Columbus, OH.
Adult Swim‘s Robot Chicken: Star Wars special averaged 711,000 adults 18-34 Sunday night and 426,000 viewers 18-24.
AMC greenlit Breaking Bad, a nine-episode series about a high school teacher who deals drugs; Chris Noth will executive produce and likely star. AMC also signed Apocalypse Now scribe John Milius to script Saigon Bureau, a miniseries about photojournalists covering the Vietnam War. [Variety] Click here for Seth Arenstein’s story on Mad Men, AMC’s first original series, debuting July 19.
Lifetime is threatening to pull its Army Wives production out of South Carolina over state changes to financial rebates for film and TV shoots.
Ovation TV relaunches today; The Hollywood Reporter looks at the net’s plan to become the ESPN of arts.
Showtime programming head Bob Greenblatt is developing 9 to 5 as a Broadway musical, which could become Showtime’s second Broadway investment following Mario Cantone’s one-man show. [Playbill]
TNT‘s commercial-free premiere of The Closer‘s new season on Monday night made cable history by attracing 8.8 million viewers, a record for ad-supported cable networks. That lead-in gave 4.3 million viewers to Heartland, TNT’s original series that premiered immediately after.
Hillary Clinton spoofed The Sopranos‘ finale in the video announcing her campaign theme song, with a cameo by Vince (Johnny Sack) Curatola — click here. (If she waited she could have used real props from the set, which are being sold this week…)
The Open Mobile Video Coalition, a consortium of nine broadcasters (including Fox and NBC), yesterday issued a call for a single standard for converting digital TV signals to cell phones and other mobile devices. [Mediaweek]
AT&T‘s Video Share announcement at NXTcomm yesterday generated waves today (including this Wall Street Journal article). Designed for live sharing of video during cellphone calls over 3G networks, it’s being tested in Atlanta, Dallas and San Antonio and will expand in July.
Oxygen tapped Artificial Life (yes) for an undisclosed mobile TV project.
SCTE’s Cable-Tec Expo continues today in Orlando. Communications Technology is all over the show; some headlines: Cox Communications tapped Vyyo for biz services in Oklahoma and is deploying Harmonic‘s edgeQAM to expand VOD in Kansas and Arkansas | Time Warner Cable Business Class and Cablevision‘s Optimum Lightpath biz services unit received MEF 14 certification from the Metro Ethernet Forum (Cablevision was the first cable operator to join MEF); C-COR and Harmonic partner on switched digital video | Pace and Broadcom demo DOCSIS 2.0 channel bonding | RGB Networks and ICTV team up for interactive advertising | BigBand hits 70K Edge QAM milestone and demos advanced video services.
• IN OTHER NEWS
A statewide video franchising bill yesterday was sent to Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich for approval, having unanimously passed the Senate. [Chicago Tribune]
Landfills fear flood of analog TV sets in the wake of the digital TV transition. [Los Angeles Times via Cincinnati Post]
Infomercial icon Ronco filed for bankruptcy, owning millions to founder Ron Popeil (who no longer owns the company) and Food Network, QVC, Court TV and others. [Los Angeles Daily News]
Ars Technica does some poking around in Microsoft’s Mediaroom, its renamed IPTV service.