Cable360AM — News briefing for Tuesday, June 26 »

Updated: While the other FCC Commissioners attend a hearing on media localism in Portland, ME, today, embattled FCC chairman Kevin Martin was scheduled to testify at the Senate committee hearing on children and media violence this morning, but had to cancel because of a family emergency with his infant son, born last week, in a hospital I.C.U.

Earlier: The Washington Post‘s Lisa de Moraes offers an amusing-yet-serious preview ("over smoked salmon and underdone toast") with Fox entertainment president Peter Liguori, "the only actual working TV executive who was invited to today’s session." Liguori, a veteran cable exec in his previous life as head of FX, is not only defending his own programming (particularly the "muscular" 24, as he calls it) but also facing down Martin’s ongoing FCC crusade to regulate TV and mandate a la carte regulations on pay television.

Ahead of today’s meeting, more than 100 cable networks yesterday sent a joint letter to the committee voicing their opposition to government regulation of TV programming packaging and pricing, and of course, a la carte. The Wall Street Journal and the Hollywood Reporter have more.

Post-hearing
: Liguori’s testimony, as promised, knocked studies for failing to establish a causal link between TV violence and aggression in children, and emphasized the role of TV networks’ self-monitoring and the need for parents and guardians to monitor children’s media consumption. Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.VA) responded, "To say that it’s all a problem for parents is an inordinately repulsive statement." Rockefeller will introduce legislation in the coming weeks to restrict violent media content, he said, because "I fear that graphic violent programming has become so pervasive and has been shown to be so harmful, we are left with no choice but to have the government step in." [AP | Variety]



• IN OTHER NEWS

The Wall Street Journal‘s headline this morning — "News Corp. Nears Dow Jones Pact." Rupert Murdoch’s acquisition of the media company (and desire to slap the WSJ brand on his upcoming Fox Business Channel) could be announced as early as today.

Adelphia founder John Rigas and son Tim are due to be resentenced today after a federal appeals court upheld their convictions on 17 of 18 criminal counts in an accounting scandal. The elder Rigas had been sentenced to 15 years and his son to 20 years.

The Big Ten Network‘s carriage stand-off with Comcast prompted House Commerce chairman John Dingell (D-MI) to request more info from Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney. Dingell’s letter is here.

USA‘s Raw pre-empted last night’s planned "memorial service" for WWE head Vince McMahon (killed off in a fictional storyline) to televise a three-hour tribute to WWE star Chris Benoit, discovered yesterday at his suburban Atlanta home, along with his wife and their 7 year-old son, all three dead in an apparent double murder-suicide, reports ABC News. Benoit, who won the WWE world heavyweight championship at WrestleMania 20 in 2004, missed Sunday’s WWE pay-per-view event from Houston, worrying WWE executives. He’s the second WWE star from Canada to die in the past decade, following Owen Hart’s tragic plunge during a 1997 pay-per-view. Another wrestler, Eddie Guerrero, died in Nov. 2005 due to causes of drug and steroid abuse, according to an autopsy. Click here for WWE’s statement and today’s developments.



• PROGRAMMING

Magna Global research head Steve Sternberg released a report finding that the media age of broadcast TV viewers is 48, while the median age of the U.S. population is 37. Average current season viewer ages: 48 at ABC, 52-52 at CBS, 49 at NBC, 32 at the CW and 42 at Fox. [Variety]

Adult Swim, aka Cartoon Network‘s late-night alter ego, expands to seven nights a week starting July 6; its first Friday night features a Family Guy marathon.

Bravo‘s Hey Paula reality series with Paula Abdul premieres Thursday with back-to-back episodes.

CNN Headline News anchor Nancy Grace is expecting twins in January, after quietly marrying in April. Grace tells the New York Post she’ll announce the news tonight on-air. CNN, meanwhile, is reportedly still in talks with NBC’s Campbell Brown, who’s also expecting, to take over Paula Zahn’s prime-time slot.

Discovery Channel holds a press conference tomorrow in Egypt to unveil the mummy of Queen Hatshepsut, the only female pharoah, the subject of its upcoming Secrets of Egypt’s Lost Queen special on July 15, reports AFP. Discovery also added Planet Earth to its unitedstreaming Plus service for educators.

Disney Channel attracted its highest today-day audience (2.5 million) ever on Friday, with movie Spy Kids 3D: Game Over and original series Hannah Montana also attracting 4.2 million tweens and 1.1 million kids 6-11.

E! hits the red carpet at tonight’s BET Awards at 7:30pm ET; the annual awards show airs live on BET at 8pm.

ESPN offers live pay-per-view coverage of The World Series of Poker finale on July 17 for $19.95 online or on TV.

ExerciseTV relaunched its website to offer social networking and free workout videos, searchable by category; visitors can also rate the videos and trainers.

G4 offers a sneak peek at the first episode of its new original animated series, Code Monkeys, on Break.com starting tomorrow. The series premieres on G4 with back-to-back episodes on July 11 at 9pm.

GolTV today kicks off its exclusive U.S. coverage (in English) of Copa America soccer with Uruguay vs. Peru and Venezuela vs. Bolivia.

HBO bows baseball doc, Brooklyn Dodgers: The Ghosts of Flatbush, on July 11. HBO is also co-producing (with the BBC) a four-part miniseries, Between Two Rivers, about Saddam Hussein during his 1979-2003 reign as president of Iraq. [Hollywood Reporter]

HGTV premieres a casting special for season 2 of HGTV Design Star on July 22 (it hits VOD the next day). The series’ remaining episodes air July 29-Sept. 16.

HSN for sale? St. Petersburg Times ponders Barry Diller’s potential buyers, including Liberty Media‘s John Malone.

ION Media‘s takeover by NBCU and Citadel Investment Group hangs on Silver Point Capital, described in the New York Post as "a large group of disgruntled stockholders." ION renewed its distribution pact with SES Americom today.

Lifetime‘s Army Wives averaged 3.9 million viewers and a 3.2 household rating Sunday, breaking the series’ previous ratings records. Lifetime says that makes Army Wives the #1 cable drama among women and the first major network cable drama in five years to increase its audience in Week 4 compared to its premiere. Lifetime’s new series Side Order of Life and State of Mind premiere July 15.

MASN turned up the heat on carriage hold-out Time Warner Cable with yesterday’s launch of an online petition at playballnow.org.

MHD, MTVN‘s HD channel, began a preview on DirecTV yesterday and will transmit the six-hour Concert for Diana live on July 1. DirecTV adds the channel full-time in Sept.

Mojo renewed After Hours with Daniel, its latenight cooking show with NYC chef Daniel Boulud. [Variety]

NBC is replacing Friday night repeats of Friday Night Lights (now offered only on NBC.com) with Law & Order repeats.

NBCU‘s 2007 AST Dew Tour is going multiplatform, with participating affiliates including Comcast, Charter Communications, Time Warner Cable, EchoStar‘s Dish Network and Verizon‘s FiOS TV and V CAST mobile TV service.

Nickelodeon kicks off its Slime Across America summer tour on July 9, with related on-air programming July 6-Aug. 17.

Oxygen today launches a Create-A-Series competition, to be judged by comedian Molly Shannon, through Aug. 31. The winner gets a 10-13 part broadband series on Oxygen’s SheDidWhat.tv.

Players Network, purveyors of gaming tips on Comcast on Demand, launched a YouTube channel.

SCI FI today launches Eureka $mart House Energy-Efficiency Challenge, a contest pegged to season 2 of Eureka, which premieres July 10. Based on an energy audit, the grand prize winner could receive energy-efficiency makeover improvements of up to $25,000 to create a "smarter" home. The NBCU-owned network is also allowing viewers to purchase products shown during today’s Eureka marathon by mobile text messaging, a U.S. TV first enabled by ShopText.

TBS launches an HD simulcast channel Sept. 1. TBS in HD joins TNT HD, which similarly launched as TNT in HD before rebranding.

TLC premieres reality competition series A Model Life with Petra Nemcova on July 13.

VH1 premieres The 2007 World Series of Pop Culture on July 9, offering a $250,000 grand prize and a standalone website (worldofpop.com) for viewers to participate during the eight-day on-air competition.



• ONLINE

The Communications Workers of America union released its first national study of broadband connection speeds as clocked on its Speed Matters website. Its U.S. findings — with Rhode Island registering the fastest download speed (5.91 Mbps) and Alaska the slowest (206 Kbps) — paled in comparison to international broadband speeds of Japan’s 61 Mbps, the world’s fastest, and Canada’s 7.6 Mbps. AP has more.

AOL relaunched its news site in blog format with cable stalwart Mo Rocca one of its resident bloggers.

Cablevision launches wireless Internet service Thursday in Sag Harbor and Long Beach, NY, as a free service to Optimum Online high-speed subscribers. [NY Newsday]

GSN offers a "freed Paris Hilton" game here.

Vongo, the download service owned by Starz, struck a deal to bundle a 30-day free offer in Toshiba notebooks.

MD Gov. Martin O’Malley announced a $2 million investment to extend the state’s rural broadband program to the Eastern Shore and Southern Maryland.

RealNetworks releases its Web video-grabbing RealPlayer today here.

YouTubers are miffed that editors’ choices have replaced the most viewed video picks on its YouChoose ’08 CNN presidential debate channel. [New York Times]

Today is the Internet Radio Day of Silence, Webcasters’ protest at Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) rate hikes.



• WIRELESS

AT&T‘s pending (July 15) shut down of its Tulsa-area early digital and analog networks has Oklahomans (including AARP members) up in arms. It’s phasing out the rest of the state’s TDMA and analog networks by the first quarter. [NewsOK.com]



• TECHNOLOGY

CSG‘s Workforce Express was deployed by Charter Communications in two divisions.

Gemstar-TV Guide signed a multi-year patent license agreement with MeeVee Inc.

German chipmaker Infineon Technologies will buy Texas Instruments‘ home DSL broadband chip unit to strengthen its wireline business. [Reuters]

OpenTV launched a "Rapid Porting Program" – details here.

Terayon was tapped by Bresnan Communications for digital simulcast. Proxy advisory firms ISS and Glass, Lewis & Co. are urging Terayon stockholders to vote for the company’s proposed merger with a subsidiary of Motorola at Thursday’s special meeting.

Zarlink Semiconductor Inc. agreed to buy Legerity Holdings for $134.5 million. [Globe & Mail]



• PEOPLE

CMT hired former 60 Minutes producer John Hamlin as SVP, production and development.

Comcast hired Mark Lipford as VP/GM of Comcast West Florida, from VP/GM at AT&T Wisconsin.

Comcast SportsNet SVP for special projects Seaton "Sam" Schroeder died Sunday; he was 66. CSN president Jack Williams sings his praises in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer; the newspaper’s obituary is here.

Earthlink named Rolla P. Huff president and CEO. The former chairman and CEO of Mpower Communications replaces Gary Betty, who died in January.

Hallmark Channel/Hallmark Movie Channel hired Randi Felton as senior director, ad sales research, reporting to EVP of ad sales Bill Abbott.

Here Networks promoted Billy Coger to director of development, from manager of original programming; and Matt Freeman to director of production from director of development.

MTV Networks promoted Tanya Giles to SVP, research and planning, MTVN’s Entertainment Group. As part of MTVN’s new research structure, Beth Coleman was named VP, ad sales research, Sharon Light was named VP of ad sales research for Comedy Central and Spike TV and Rich Cornish was named VP of ad sales research for TV Land and CMT.

Nickelodeon/MTVN Kids and Family Group promoted Pam Kaufman to chief marketing officer, from EVP, marketing and worldwide promotions.

SpinVox hired former MTVN UK exec James Scroggs as VP, consumer business.

Tandberg promoted Al Nu ez to president, Americas, from SVP of sales.



• ALSO NOTED


Comcast was named (for the fourth consecutive year) one of Boston Business Journal‘s "Best Places to Work" in Mass.

The Consumerist blog details the DirecTV installation nightmare endured by Christy, a former Cox Communications customer who decided to switch after her husband lost their free cable TV perk after he quit his job at Cox Media.

Houston Chronicle reporter Dwight Silverman, a Comcast customer, took AT&T’s U-verse for a monthlong test drive. His verdict: "The combination of Comcast and TiVo suits me better, so I’ll stay put for now. But U-verse’s potential is great, and I could easily see myself becoming a customer in the future. I’ll take a look again at Version 2.0." His U-verse beefs: spotty video on demand offerings, ghosting and U-verse’s ability to only watch or record one HD channel at a time.

HBO boxing announcer Larry Merchant’s sparring with HBO Sports head Ross Greenburg recapped here.

Shirley Brady

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