Cable360AM — News briefing for Thursday, Dec. 13 » The CableFAX and Cable360 staff requests the return of the missing Jack Daniel’s bottle. No questions asked. Good morning.

DirecTV will fly a blimp over Tampa, Fla., tonight that will display the NFL Network’s presentation of the Denver Broncos-Houston Texans game. Local cable operator Bright House Networks does not carry the NFL Network. The blimp will also enter the air space over St. Petersburg for an upcoming Cincinnati Bengals-San Francisco 49ers game and pass over Orlando for a Pittsburgh Steelers-St. Louis Rams game.

Pro Football Weekly reminds its readers that it was the NFL that chose to reserve eight games for the NFL Network and make them unavailable to broadcast TV viewers, and that it was also the league’s choice to then charge cable operators 70 cents per subscriber to carry the network. [Pro Football Weekly]

HBO signed a deal with Nielsen Media Research to use the company’s National People Meter VOD Audience Measurement service, Variety reports. The premium cable network will receive from Nielsen demographic data about its video-on-demand users. [Variety]

General Electric chairman and CEO Jeffrey Immelt said yesterday that within two years the TV network business will be run differently, according to New York Times blog TV Decoder. GE is the parent company of NBC Universal. [TV Decoder]

Paramount Pictures will premiere the feature film Jackass 2.5 online Dec. 19 through Blockbuster’s Movielink service, the New York Times reports. Paramount is owned by Viacom. [New York Times]

Media analyst Doug Shapiro has been hired by Time Warner Inc., according to the Times. Formerly with Banc of America Securities, Shapiro is “expected to become head of investor relations” under incoming CEO Jeffrey Bewkes. [New York Times]

The ongoing writers’ strike may accelerate the permanent demise of the annual network upfront presentations for advertisers, the Times reports. [New York Times]

MTV Networks’ striking freelancers scored a qualified victory this week against MTV’s corporate parent Viacom, which revised its plans to reduce benefits for employees who are not on the permanent staff. [Variety]

When is a cable operator actually a programmer? When there’s money to be made. Verizon struck a deal with Comcast to carry the cable operator’s regional sports network, which presents Portland Trail Blazers games, on the telco’s FiOS TV service in Washington county, Ore., the Oregonian reports. [The Oregonian]

The Senate Commerce Committee meets today to look at FCC chairman Kevin Martin’s recent media regulatory initiatives, according to the Hollywood Reporter. [Hollywood Reporter]

Comcast is planning to build a call center in Largo, Md., that will employ 500 people. [Baltimore Sun]

DirecTV added local high-definition channels in Tuscon, Ariz., according to TVPredictions. [TVPredictions]

Mad Men,  Showtime Are Golden
It must be coincidence, but AMC’s Mad Men and its star Jon Hamm were featured guests at CableFAX 100’s awards luncheon in New York yesterday and today the show (best drama) and Hamm (best lead actor in a drama series) were presented with Golden Globe nominations. Mad Men is AMC’s initial foray into scripted drama.
    Adding  to the coincidences and the firsts, our first raffle question at the luncheon concerned Showtime, its series Californication and that series’ star David Duchovny. Today Showtime led all cable nets with nominations in the lead actor/actress categories, including one for, yes, David Duchovny (best actor/comedy). Other Showtime nods went to The Tudors (best drama), Michael C. Hall and Jonathan Rhys Meyers (best actors, drama) and Mary-Louise Parker (best actress, comedy). The noms for Hall and Rhys Meyers is the first time 2 Showtime actors have been nominated in the same category. Should be no trouble attracting a crowd to next year’s CableFAX 100 lunch, right?

The Globes have been relatively cable friendly and this year was much the same. Other cable nominees on the drama series side include HBO’s Big Love and FX’s Damages. In comedy, HBO’s Entourage and Extras received noms. The Globes will be awarded January 13. [Seth Arenstein]

Steroids On Television
After 20 months, former Sen. George Mitchell and Major League Baseball this afternoon will unveil the contents of Mitchell’s investigation into the game’s so-called steroid era. Ironically, today’s press conference, at 2pm ET, will be held in New York’s Grand Hyatt hotel, the same venue where CableFAX Magazine released the CableFAX 100 list yesterday. The 100 will turn out to be more revelatory.
    Mitchell apparently names 80 or so players who used steroids (of course thousands did), and almost no current players cooperated with the erstwhile senator (why should they?). The report blames MLB and the Players Association for allowing the drug culture to flourish. It recommends baseball outsource its drug testing.
    Needless to say Mitchell’s essay will be fodder for cable news and sports nets. The sports leader, ESPN, and ESPN News begin their coverage at 1pm ET with a special; they’ll carry Mitchell’s news conference live at 2pm ET. Starting happy hour a tad early, Baseball Commish Bud Selig’s presser is at 4:30pm ET; with the Players Association getting its say at 6pm ET.
    Tomorrow The History Channel carries a series of news conferences live from Washington, DC, at noon ET where leading historians are expected to reveal that the North won the Civil War.  [Seth Arenstein]
Yesterday’s 360AM.

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