360AM — Morning news briefing for Monday, Feb. 26 (Updated: 8pm ET) • TOP STORIES

Discovery Channel‘s The Lost Tomb of Jesus — a special premiering this Sunday (Mar. 4) at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT — examines a 2,000-year old tomb in Jerusalem that may have held the remains of Jesus and his family, including Mary Madgalene and a son named Judah. (The announcement is already stirring up heated discussion on Time magazine’s blog.) Filmmakers James Cameron and Simcha Jacobovici join Discovery GM Jane Root and academics at a press conference today in New York. [Release 1 | Release 2]

BitTorrent is going legit with the BitTorrent Entertainment Network, or BEN, which launches with more than 5,000 TV and movie titles (including a smattering of HD content) from 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros., Lionsgate, MGM, Paramount plus MTV Networks, Starz Media, FX, G4 and others. Besides offering downloads of movies ($3.99 per title or $2.99 for older titles) and TV shows ($1.99 each), BEN will offer a social community aspect (tapping into its estimated 135 million users worldwide) and wants to give exposure to independent films. [Release | Variety | Reuters]

Ericsson outbids Arris with unsolicited $1.39 billion offer for Tandberg Television. [Ericsson release | Tandberg response | Arris response | WSJ | Bloomberg]

Adelphia transfers $332 million in Time Warner Cable stock to settle charges by the DOJ and SEC. [Dow Jones]

• COMPETITION

AT&T‘s U-verse signs deal with Scripps Networks. [Release]

EchoStar will offer bill payments using a Green Dot MoneyPak, available at retailers including Rite Aid, Walgreens, RadioShack and CVS/Pharmacy. [Release]

Verizon workers fight red-lining in New England. [Znet]

• VENDORS

BigBand sets IPO. [Reuters]

• PROGRAMMING

ESPN will launch College Football Live, a 30-minute show at 3:30 p.m. ET daily, from July 23 through bowl season in January. When Monday Night Football starts, the Monday edition will shift to 2 p.m. on ESPN2. Its introduction will shift the start-times of the first half of ESPN’s afternoon programming block, including Outside the Lines First Report, 1st and 10 and Best of Mike and Mike, 30 minutes earlier. [USA Today]

Univision‘s $24 million fine levied by the FCC indicates Kevin Martin is taking a harder stance on kids programmers. [WSJ]

• DIGITAL MEDIA

CBS signs virtual worlds deal with The Electric Sheep Co., expanding on Showtime’s Second Life world around The L Word; CBS also invests in the company. [Release]

Google expands AdSense content partnerships (including Dow Jones, Condé Nast, Sony BMG Music Entertainment) and wants a bigger piece of the scatter market. [New York Times | Ad Age]

YouTube visits are up 14% since Viacom removed MTVN clips [Hitwise]. NBA partners with YouTube on NBA Channel [Bloomberg] while YouTube celebs are being wooed by other video websites [New York Times] and job-seekers and recruiters are using YouTube to connect. [TIME]

Nancy Pelosi’s use of C-SPAN clips gives lawmakers a lesson in Web video rights. [New York Times]

• ETC.

Connecticut boasts the highest per-capita income of any state, but still has remote communities without broadband from cable or its competitors. [New York Times]

Netflix delivered its 1 billlionth DVD. [Release]

• EVENTS THIS WEEK

TUES: Cablevision and CBS release fourth-quarter earnings.

WED: Time Warner Cable hosts a conference call on its business outlook. Sprint Nextel releases fourth-quarter earnings [Kansas City Star preview] along with Charter Communications, Gemstar-TV Guide and Liberty Media. Mel Karmazin is also scheduled to testify on the proposed XM/Sirius merger before the House Judiciary Committee’s Anti-Trust Task Force [New York Daily News].

THURS: EchoStar and Viacom release fourth-quarter earnings.

• IN OTHER NEWS
Adelphia
bondholders (including subsidiaries of Banc of America and Lehman Brothers) won’t drop their move to appeal the company’s playment plan according to a Feb. 23 court filing. The bondholders stand to add $250 million to the $900 million in assets already coming their way if their appeal succeeds. [Bloomberg]

AOL is in talks to buy Third Screen Media, a mobile advertising firm. [Wall Street Journal]

Apple TV delayed until mid-March. [Associated Press | USA Today]

Cox Communications-backed bill prohibiting Tucson from demanding more from Cox than state regulations permit passes the House in Arizona and heads to the Senate for approval. [Arizona Daily Star]

DirecTV and EchoStar settled their litigation over using each others brands as keywords in online searches. [Dow Jones]

Rogers launches unlimited long distance between its digital phone and wireless customers anywhere in Canada. [Release]

Tandberg announced an IPTV HD/SD video processing system for IPTV service providers hours after learning that Ericsson wants to acquire it for $1.39 billion. [IPTV release]

BabyFirstTV expands U.S. cable distribution as a $9.99 premium network (it launched in Comcast’s Richmond, VA, system in early January with a first-month-free offer). It got its start last year on DirecTV and Dish Network. [Washington Post]

Chiller, the new horror/thriller net from NBCU, announces Mar. 1 debut plans including programming line-up coming to 16 million DirecTV homes and launch of its chillertv.com website. VOD and HD channels will launch later this year. [Release]

Discovery Channel‘s The Lost Tomb of Jesus doc (airing Sunday) draws criticism from church leaders and academics. [Associated Press | San Jose Mercury News | The Australian | New York Times blog]

GSN holds finals for its CTPAA-nominated National Vocabulary Championship Mar. 5 in New York; a one-hour special airs Apr. 15. [Release]

Hallmark Channel unveils new on-air look and tagline — "Make Yourself at Home" — on Mar. 1. [Release]

MASN signed a multi-year deal with WJZ to broadcast 25 Baltimore Orioles games starting Apr. 6. [WJZ.com]

Nick Jr.‘s Go, Diego, Go! launches a new season on Mar. 5  [Release] and will be featured in the Miami Metrozoo’s Amazon and Beyond Exhibit starting in 2008; Comcast is a sponsor. [Release]

SCI FI announced a joint venture — SCI FI/Virgin Comics — with Richard Branson’s Virgin Comics. [Release]

Versus airs the America’s Cup Challenger Series starting Apr. 16, featuring daily highlights during the network’s NHL playoffs coverage. Daily live coverage of the America’s Cup semi-finals and finals begins in mid-May.

VH1 premieres Dice Undisputed, a reality series on the return of comedian Andrew Dice Clay, with back to back episodes on Mar. 4. [Release]

The Consumer Electronics Association announced that all products shipped with analog tuners will include DTV tuners as of Mar. 1. [Release]

Verizon’s FiOS service revs up to 50Mbps in six states. [Release]

AT&T’s U-verse exceeds cable and satellite "in some subtle ways." [SF Chronicle review]

Vonage denied infringing Verizon patents. [Reuters]

Bravo‘s Top Design judge Margaret Russell slammed for "catty" remarks. [New York magazine]

Time Warner Cable CSR touted in Washington Post.

Carl Icahn invested $50 million in Motricity, a mobile content enabled used by MTV, BET, NBC and Turner. [Release] – Shirley Brady

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