360AM — Morning news briefing for Thursday, Mar. 15 (Updated 8pm ET)

DirecTV discontinued Gospel Music Channel‘s local feeds, which it launched in Aug. 2006 in 10 markets: Austin, Dallas, Denver, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Minneapolis, Orlando, Paducah, Philadelphia and San Antonio. GMC’s website says DirecTV "has decided to no longer carry" the network in its local broadcast package; click here for more.

Yesterday’s Dem-delivered grilling of FCC chairman Kevin Martin and his four commissioners could become a monthly event if House Commerce chair John Dingell (D-MI) has his way. [Los Angeles Times] NCTA pres/CEO Kyle McSlarrow addressed increased regulatory pressures on cable and vowed to fight retransmission consent in a media briefing today. [Reuters].

Los Angeles Times looks at advertising piece of Viacom‘s YouTube/Google suit: "Google took in $10.6 billion in advertising revenue last year. But growth in search-based advertising has slowed, which is why there is speculation in the industry that Google has its eye on an even bigger prize: the more than $60 billion a year spent for advertising on networks, TV stations and cable channels." [LAT]

• COMPETITION

Missouri‘s House yesterday passed a statewide video franchising bill; if it passes the Senate, it will be the 12th state to enact similar legislation or policies. AT&T has pledged to invest more than $100 million to expand its video service in Missouri if the bill is signed into law. [AP]

AT&T is expanding its U-verse rollout as its San Antonio launchpad recovers from glitches. The company claims U-verse’s reliability rose to 99.98% last month from 99.93% in January. [San Antonio Express-News]

Verizon‘s FiOS now has 8,500 VOD titles and more than 20 HD nets. [Release]

• ONLINE

CBS launched a CBS Sports NCAA Tournament channel on YouTube, sponsored by Pontiac. [Release]

Google will strengthen privacy protections in the coming year to "anonymize" search-query logs after 18-24 months unless legally required to retain the information longer. [WSJ | New York Times]

Microsoft reported that Xbox Live movie downloads increased 400% since launching in November, making it the #2 movie downloading service after iTunes. [Video Business] Xbox Live will launch a Windows Vista version of Halo 2 on May 8, allowing cross-platform game play between Xbox and PC players for the first time. [Release]

Video spam is growing on YouTube, AOL, Blinkx, Break.com and other video websites. [WSJ]

• PROGRAMMING

Bloomberg TV premieres The Final Word, a daily business wrap, on Monday. [Release]

Discovery Communications
pres/CEO David Zaslav hired former colleague Bruce Campbell, EVP of business development at NBC Universal, as president of digital media, emerging networks and business development. Clint Stinchcomb was promoted from EVP of new media to EVP of the company’s new Emerging Networks Group. Stinchcomb adds Discovery Times, Home and Military channels to his new media oversight and reports to Campbell, who fills the company-wide digital strategist post vacated by Don Baer in November.

FightTV launches IPTV channel featuring mixed martial arts stars such as Chuck Liddell. [Release]

FSN announces first all-women’s fight card in net’s history. [Release]

FX lands Night at the Museum. [Variety]

Nick Jr. airs two back-to-back premiere weeks of The Backyardigans and Blue’s Room starting Monday. [Release]

ReelzChannel tapped Sundance Film Fest director Geoffrey Gilmore to guest host for Leonard Maltin’s Secret’s Out next week, starting Monday. [Release]

Scripps Networks hosted an upfront event for advertisers last night in New York. Programming news included a two-part behind the scenes Kenny Chesney special that will air on GAC Apr. 21/28. [MediaPost]

Showtime taps David Duchovny for untitled comedy slated to run with Aug. return of Weeds. [Release | Hollywood Reporter]

VH1 premieres Flavor of Love Girls: Charm School starring Mo’Nique on Apr. 15, with an online preview of ep. 1 on its broadband channel, VSPOT, six days earlier. [Release]

VOOM HD hired Glenn Oakley as SVP global ops and biz dev from Rainbow. [World Screen]

• PHONE

Sprint tests "all you can talk" plan in San Francisco for $120/mo; another $30/mo. buys unlimited mobile broadband access. [Wireless Week] It’s also replacing Sirius Hits on its Vision and Power Vision lineups with branded channels from E!, The Weather Channel, CNN, NFL Network, Fox Sports and other streaming content. [RCR Wireless]

AT&T Wireless adds American Idol content. [Release]

Verizon offers $9.99/mo. add-on deal for cable, wireless and other phone service subscribers. [Release] Verizon Wireless and TiVo also launched remote TiVo Mobile DVR programming. [Release]

GrandCentral offers one phone number for life, with a single voicemail box that can be accessed by phone or online at GrandCentral.com. Whenever your "uninumber" is called, all your phones ring simultaneously. The service is free for two phone numbers with 30-day voicemail storage, or $15/mo. for up to six numbers with unified voice messaging and unlimited voicemail storage. [New York Times]

• EARNINGS

Commscope Q1 expectations boost shares. [BusinessWeek]

Alaska’s GCI reports year-end 2006. [Release]

OpenTV reports Q4 & 2006 results. [Release]

RCN reports Q4 & 2006 results [Release]. Having unloaded its San Francisco system this week, LA is next. [Washington Business Journal]

• IN OTHER NEWS

FCC agenda released today for Mar. 22 open commission meeting. [PDF]

City officials denounce FCC‘s revised local franchising rules. [McMinnville News-Register, OR]

Microsoft‘s Ballmer says Verizon and AT&T "are going to take a big share of the TV business." [KGO-TV]

Is Comcast stepping up to DOCSIS 3.0 this summer? [Broadband Reports]

Time Warner Cable/Granite Broadcasting‘s retransmission limbo leaves viewers without NCAA in HD. [Greater Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin]

Time Warner Cable Raleigh awards more than $1mln in grants. [Release]

Time Warner Cable Syracuse bumped National Geographic Channel to digital so it “can add four new high definition channels.” [WSYR]

Kagan projects $8.7 billion in VOD revenues by 2016. [Release]

Cisco made a $3.2 billion cash offer for WebEx, a video conferencing firm. [Release | TheStreet.com]

Viamedia launched Auction Auto TV on Chicago-area cable systems operated by Comcast. [Release]

"March Ad-ness" bodes well (again) for CSTV, which sells ads across its 250 college websites, which includes 38 March Madness participants. Its Mar. 2006 NCAA-related Web traffic grew 32% over March ’05. [WSJ]

HDTV: the eco-friendly choice. [Custom Retailer]

TrimSpa plans DVR-proof ads, using images that will remain on the screen despite fast-forwarding. [ABC News]

Oxygen licensed Campus Ladies to UK’s Living channel. [C21 Media]

Mark Cuban blogs on the DTV transition: "The most fun to be had with the Digital Transition will come from watching cable, satellite and telco video providers battle it out over consumers trying to figure out how best to receive HDTV signals."

Shirley Brady

• Click here for 360AM news briefing for Wednesday, Mar. 14 >>

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