Cable360AM — News briefing for Friday, Oct. 26 »

Comcast‘s 54% third quarter earnings drop sent cable stocks into freefall yesterday. Its own shares hit a 52-week low, sliding 11% yesterday to close at $21.28 and dragging other cable operators’ stock prices — such as Charter Communications, which slid 27% to close at $1.97 a share, its biggest one-day drop in five years, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch — down with it. Time Warner Cable, Cablevision and Mediacom were also impacted. [More: AP | Philadelphia Inquirer | New York Post]

After its 3rd quarter earnings call yesterday, which promised a lower-priced broadband service and more HD marketing, speculation increased that Comcast (either alone or with other MSOs) will make a run at buying a national wireless carrier such as Sprint Nextel, reports the Wall Street Journal. Motorola also disclosed on its third quarter earnings call yesterday it’s helping Comcast with switched digital video. And Comcast continues to invest in its operations, committing to spending more than $70 million in Tennessee. It’s also expanding service center hours in Boston to keep up with Red Sox fans’ demand for HD cable boxes to watch the World Series in high-def on Fox HD.

EchoStar will add "push/pull" video on demand into its just-announced ViP-TV service, noting "Because it is both a push and pull service, ViP-TV offers more movie and programming options than the current popular titles associated with a push-only VOD service" such as cable operators’ on demand offerings.

Cox Communications San Diego kicks off a week-long fundraiser tomorrow for the wildfire recovery efforts in Southern California. Animal Planet‘s is also helping SoCal residents temporarily place their pets while they’re evacuated.

Qwest is eyeing Tempe, AZ, a market it tried to enter a decade ago but "the timing wasn’t right," a spokesman tells the East Valley Tribune.

Time Warner Cable extended its $5 billion exchange offer deadline to Oct. 30.

FCC commissioner Michael Copps is seeking an inquiry into News Corp.’s acquisition of Dow Jones, reports AP. Copps and his fellow commissioners will vote Wednesday at the agency’s open commission meeting on a proposal to ban exclusive deals between cable operators and building owners; Reuters has more.

The NHL Network will announce another cable deal Monday, while DirecTV is getting ready to launch the 24/7 hockey channel, reports the LA Daily News.

Meanwhile, the NFL Network is stepping up its cable push by tapping Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones to pitch Comcast; the Dallas Morning News weighs his chances, while USA Today looks at the NFL’s global ambitions.

Vonage settled a patent dispute with Verizon by agreeing to pay $120 million. Vonage still has to resolve AT&T’s patent infringement suit, and settled Sprint-Nextel’s suit for $80 million earlier this month.

Starz announced version 2.0 of its Vongo downloading service.

Google this week accused Viacom of co-opting NBC Universal into the companies’ legal spat over YouTube, reports Dow Jones.

The Wall Street Journal finds Hollywood studios are struggling to outwit pirates, with illegal versions of American Gangster, Ratatouille and other 2007 releases showing up on DVD and online before their theatrical release.

Fox News Channel tapped right-wing commentator Laura Ingraham as primary substitute host of The O’Reilly Factor and Hannity & Colmes.

William J. Lansing, CEO of ShopNBC parent ValueVision, has stepped down.

And just when you got Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’ out of your head, Sopranos creator David Chase reopened the controversy over the series’ HBO finale in a new book out this week, reports AP.

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