Cable360AM — News briefing for Wednesday, June 13 »

HBO is making all 26 of its HBO- and Cinemax-branded networks high definition, marking the biggest HD commitment by any TV programmer and the first major announcement by new chairman/CEO Bill Nelson. HBO’s high-def rollout will begin in September and convert about 80% of its networks’ primarily movie-based content to HD, similar to HBO and Cinemax’s current HD networks. In a blow for cable, DirecTV will be the first operator to carry HBO’s HD networks, reports Variety (here’s the release), moving the satellite TV service closer to its "100 HD Channels or Bust" flag hoisted at CES in January. DirecTV will augment the HBO East high-def feed it currently offers starting with 10 HBO-owned HD channels that begin rolling out in September: HBO West, HBO2 West, HBO2 East, HBO Family East, HBO Family West, HBO Latino East, HBO Signature East, CineMax East, CineMax West and MoreMax East. HBO’s HD transition will continue through the 2nd quarter of ’08. HBO was the first national cable network to offer an HD feed with the launch of HBO HDTV in 1999. DirecTV aims to offer 150 HD "channels" next year (which could be a one-off sports event), which prompted Comcast co-CFO John Alchin to last week counter that it will offer 800 HD channels next year, counting its individual HDVOD titles such as Casino Royale as individual HD feeds; MediaPost has more.

DVRs will be in 40.3 million homes (almost 35% of U.S. TV households) in four years, while video on demand will nearly double to 62.8 million homes (about 54.3% of U.S. TV households) in that period to reach 95.8% of cable and telco households, according to Magna Global analyst Brian Wieser’s quarterly On Demand report. Broadband access will increase to 92 million homes in four years (from 59 million in March 2007).

Time Warner Cable Houston yesterday rebranded to Comcast Houston, adding five HD channels (ESPN2 HD, MHD, Versus/Golf HD, Starz HD, Cinemax HD) for 21 HD nets, 100 hours of HDVOD and 14 non-HD channels including The Africa Channel, ESPN Deportes, Flix, Fox Reality, GolTV, Gospel Music Channel, ImaginAsian TV, MTV Tr3s, Logo, MoviePlex, NFL Network (on its sports tier), PBS Kids Sprout, and Retroplex. It’s expanding to 6,000 hours of VOD content by year’s end. [Houston Chronicle]

More than one-fifth (21%) of cable and satellite subscribers surveyed by the CFI Group said their customer service inquiries weren’t resolved on the first call, with 49% citing that as a motivating factor to consider switching service providers. The research is posted here.

AT&T is marketing U-verse in Connecticut with an ice-cream truck that drives from community to community, playing its music to attract consumers at train stations and other public spots to check out its U-verse TV’s  features. [Hartford Courant, CT] Engadget notes some key U-verse features (such as Caller ID on TV) that won’t launch until next year. AT&T last week met with representatives from Hollywood studios (including Paramount) snd other video and audio content rights-holders to discuss keeping pirated content off its network, SVP James Cicconi told the Los Angeles Times. (Thanks, M.S., for flagging.)



• PROGRAMMING

Cable premieres tonight: The Africa Channel Presents Vanity Fair: The Africa Edition (The Africa Channel, 9pm, pegged to TAC’s photo-spread in VF’s Bono guest-edited special issue), ”Top Chef 3 (Bravo, 10pm ET), Rescue Me (FX, 10pm) and Lil’ Bush (Comedy Central, 10:30pm; click here for Seth Arenstein’s review).

AMC‘s Mad Men hour-long, 13-ep original drama (which premieres July 19 at 10pm ET) is highlighted in today’s Wall Street Journal (where network head Charlie Collier says it fits AMC because "it’s filmed to look like a movie" and "is just the type of work that can run side by side the greatest movies of all time") and this morning’s New York Times, which notes that Jack Daniel’s is the series’ sponsor (wasn’t Madison Avenue circa 1960 fueled by martinis?) Collier, a former Mad Man himself (he ran ad sales at Court TV before joining AMC), tapped agency Universal McCann for integrated Jack Daniel’s spots (dubbed "Mad-vertising") while series producers Lionsgate and @radical.media are sprinkling the bourbon brand throughout the script. If the series is as good as its promos (featuring Amy Winehouse’s You Know I’m No Good), AMC should have another Broken Trail-like original hit.

BBC World‘s Latin American agent, Castalia Communications, will now report into BBC Global Channels.

CBS announced to clamoring fans that Jericho will rejoin its primetime schedule on July 6th, starting with a repeat of the previously-cancelled series’ pilot before first season episodes play throughout the summer and seven new episodes premiere in mid-season next year.

Discovery‘s Green Planet (or is it Planet Green?) channel ordered a 13-ep half-hour series, World’s Greenest Homes, from Toronto’s Cineflex Productions. The eco-lifestyle channel launches next year in the place of Discovery Home. [Hollywood Reporter] Discovery’s landmark Planet Earth series is now the best-selling DVD for both HD-DVD and Blu-ray high-definition formats, according to Warner Home Video. The BBC version narrated by Sir David Attenborough (not Discovery’s Sigourney Weaver-narrated set, though both are available in the U.S.) has generated $3.2 million in sales since its April 24th release, notes the Hollywood Reporter.

fuse tapped Beth Lewand as VP of digital media; she was VP of digital media programming and production at Comedy Central and one of CableWorld‘s 2006 Top 50 Women in Tech.

MTV Networks tomorrow kicks off a global initiative, MTV Switch, to educate its audience on climate change and how to reduce their carbon footprint. The campaign, headed by MTVN International vice chairman Bill Roedy, will break on-air, online and on mobile platforms across MTVN and Nickelodeon’s brands and on a dedicated website, MTVSwitch.org.

Nickelodeon‘s former science guy, Don "Mr. Wizard" Herbert, died yesterday at 89. [NYT | LAT]



• RATINGS

Nielsen released its TV ratings for the week of June 4-10, showing Sunday’s finale of The Sopranos on HBO at #1 on cable with 11.9 million viewers (a 6.5 household rating) and USA at #2 for the week (and #1 on ad-supported cable) with 5.75 million viewers (3.4 rating) for WWE’s Raw; USA averaged a 2.2 rating for the week, helped by Raw and The Starter Wife. TBS was #3 with a 3.2 rating (5.8 million viewers) for Tyler Perry’s House of Payne.

ABC Family‘s Kyle XY second season premiere Monday nabbed 2.2 million viewers, down from the 2.6 million who tuned in for the season 1 premiere last June, but on par with season 1’s average viewership.

HBO‘s John From Cincinnati premiere Sunday averaged 3.4 million total viewers, down 71% from the 11.9 million who tuned into The Sopranos‘ finale that preceded it. HBO’s Big Love season 2 premiere on Monday attracted 2.2 million total viewers, down from the series’ premiere in March 2006, which attracted 4.6 million viewers; its season 1 average was 4.2 million. HBO moved Big Love to Mondays this season but ran it on Sundays after The Sopranos in season 1.


Lifetime‘s Army Wives was #1 among women 25-54 (2.2 rating/1.2 million viewers) in the 10pm timeslot for its sophomore episode Sunday (June 10) and #2 among W18-49 (2.1/1.2 million) and W18-34 (1.7/470,000). The episode scored a cumulatie audience of 6.5 million total viewers for its 10pm and 1AM encore.

Showtime‘s finale of The Tudors‘ first season on Sunday night drew 465,000 viewers, a 17% increase over the previous week; DVR and on demand viewing increased by 22% over the series’ run.



• ONLINE

Nearly 177.8 million people world-wide viewed Web content in April made with widgets, or online tools that let people post photos, videos and music on other Web sites, according to Web-tracker comScore. April’s top widget provider: Slide Inc., which creates online slideshows, with 117.1 million users. [Wall Street Journal]

More than 300 websites now aggregate and stream video, according to a Rider Research survey.

Maine adopted a net neutrality bill yesterday, the first state to enact such legislation. The Maine public advocate’s office will now monitor state and federal activity relating to Internet access. [AP]

Cisco invested in Oversi, a peer-to-peer video start-up based in Israel.

Comcast.net subscribers are reporting DNS woes on BroadbandReports.

Google will keep users’ search histories for 18 months (instead of 24) to appease EU regulators. [New York Times]

Joost added a channel for 88HipHop.com, featuring hundreds of hours of classic hip-hop footage.

NBC Universal Digital Studios is producing I Love This Movie, a biweekly series of original webisodes for Netflix. Netflix shares fell 8.4% yesterday after Blockbuster announced its DVD-by-mail service for $16.99/mo. for three releases, a dollar cheaper than Netflix rates.

Rentrak will start tracking video downloads and is pursuing "a number of broadband strategies," president Ken Papagan told investors on yesterday’s earnings call. [Video Business]

TVNewser.com creator and editor Brian Stelter is joining the New York Times as a media blogger on nytimes.com; the 21-year-old (who just graduated in journalism from Baltimore’s Towson University, where he edited the campus newspaper) is written up in today’s Variety and the New York Observer.

Vongo, the streaming video service owned by Starz, is not cannibalizing its cable audience, Starz marketing VP Joe Cantwell said at a CTAM event in Denver. [Light Reading]

Yahoo will monitor and restrict its email users who abuse its new unlimited free online storage on Yahoo Mail, although it hasn’t defined what size attachments or the type of activity it deems excessive. [Wall Street Journal]

MySpace is partnering with New York’s Ford Models, creating a video channel for the agency’s annual supermodel search.



• MOBILE

Cable operators in the Pivot-branded wireless joint venture with Sprint launched a website, MyPivot.com, to market the service. Pivot is coming soon to Time Warner Cable‘s Green Bay and Milwaukee, WI markets and Waco, TX, joining Austin and San Antonio, TX, Cincinnati and Dayton, OH, Kansas City and Raleigh NC. Cox Communications has launched Pivot mobile quad play in Oklahoma City, Phoenix and San Diego, while Comcast has launched in Oregon and its greater Boston/MA market. Bright House Networks, the other MSO in the jv, has yet to launch Pivot.

Virgin Mobile USA, meanwhile, is demonstrating how not to market wireless phone service; Gothamist has more. MTV2 is promoting the Virgin Mobile Music Festival (Baltimore, Aug. 4-5) with a shortform series, Book the Band by Virgin Mobile, that launches on-air Friday.

Alcatel-Lucent launched a mobile content software platform to enable branded wireless shopping.

Apple‘s iPhone requires an iTunes account with a credit card attached, giving Apple a direct link with AT&T‘s customers who purchase the phone (which ships June 29), notes Bloomberg. The New York Times calls its lack of a mechanical keyboard as "a billion-dollar gamble."

Kyte.tv, a multiplatform video sharing service, received additional funding from Nokia, which (as yet) does not have a deal to distribute Kyte content on its cellphones.

Verizon‘s VCAST will offer local news, weather and sports video from ABC, Cox and Gray local broadcast TV stations in 50 markets in a dedicated channel dubbed Local TV Video.



• ADVERTISING

TNS Media Intelligence revised its U.S. total advertising spending forecast to a 1.7% increase for 2007, a downward revision from its 2.6% gain projected in January and the smallest annual gain since 2001. TNS projects that local spot TV ads will fall 5.5% this year, network TV ad spending will increase 1.3% and cable ads will grow 5.9%. More details here.

Visible World added Insight Communications to its roster of cable affiliates (including Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Charter Communications, Cox Communications and the New York Interconnect) launching its AdTag/AdCopy targeted dynamic advertising suite. VW is now in 80 markets, covering 67% of U.S. cable households. Click here for Cable360’s video with Visible World president Tara Walpert.



• IN OTHER NEWS

Tweeter is restructuring under Chapter 11; it expects to keep its consumer electronics stores open.

Shirley Brady

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