Cable360AM — News briefing for Monday, July 9 »
EchoStar has emerged as a dark horse contender for Dow Jones. The satellite TV provider is included in a purchase proposal being presented tomorrow by MySpace co-founder Brad Greenspan. Reports today’s Wall Street Journal (which cites an insider), Greenspan "now is proposing to buy half the company, via a plan that incorporates a stock buyback. The proposal, which Mr. Greenspan hopes to present to representatives of the Bancroft family tomorrow, would include the participation of satellite television broadcaster EchoStar Communications Corp." EchoStar declined to comment in the WSJ report, which adds that supermarket billionaire Ron Burkle is also pitching Dow Jones’ board tomorrow, in its 11th-hour quest for alternatives to New Corp.‘s $60-a-share offer. Andrew Neil, editor of UK’s The Business, tells the New York Times he stands by his Web exclusive Friday that Dow Jones and News Corp. have finalized deal terms.
AT&T today launches its first municipal Wi-Fi wireless broadband service. AT&T has teamed up with MetroFi for its Wi-Fi launch in Riverside, CA, home to about 300,000 residents and franchised to Charter Communications on the cable side. AT&T claims it will be "the nation’s largest Wi-Fi deployment for both municipal and public use" (at 55 square miles) when it’s completed. In addition to the ad-supported free service provided by MetroFi targeting lower-income residents, AT&T is offering a subscription-based option priced at $7.99/24 hours and $15.99/week. [Release | Financial Times | Press-Enterprise]
DirecTV launched its DirecTV-10 satellite, dedicated to serving its "100 HD channels or bust" goal by year-end and 150 HD channels in ’08. [AP] SatNews reports the satellite’s test beams were successfully received by Boeing over the weekend. DirecTV tonight debuts the Championship Gaming Series (live and in HD), a video gaming league that News Corp. set up and controls worldwide. "When you start your own sports league, you get to set your own salary cap, appoint the general managers and you can put your cameras where you want," DirecTV EVP of entertainment Eric Shanks tells the Financial Times. Microsoft’s Xbox 360, Dell and Mountain Dew are among the inaugural sponsors, while profits will be shared between DirecTV and News Corp.’s BSkyB and Star, which will transmit the league in the U.K. and Asia respectively.
Sprint Nextel is dropping customers who make "excessive" (25 or more per month, or about 40 times the average) customer service calls, reports the Wall Street Journal. On June 29 about 1,000 Sprint customers received a month’s notice of being discontinued, a first for the company (or any telco, it appears). A spokeswoman comments, "The amount of time being spent to resolve the same issues again and again was affecting our ability to service other customers." She also said Sprint has no plans to disconnect other customers, but "didn’t rule out the possibility in the future."
The New York Times profiles Comcast‘s Roberts (founder Ralph and son Brian) as a successful family dynasty, in what started out as a company profile but quickly turned into a family portrait, writes Times‘ business reporter Joe Nocera, who calls their story "pretty unusual in corporate America. Pretty heartwarming, too."
ABC Family tonight premieres frat drama Greek, ESPN debuts The Bronx is Burning miniseries (starring John Turturro and Oliver Platt) and TCM unspools Spielberg on Spielberg — click here for Seth Arenstein’s reviews. Scroll down for more programming news.
MSN and NBCU‘s cross-network and cross-platform promotion of Saturday’s Live Earth concerts set a record online while racking up disappointing numbers for NBC— click here for more.
ABC (and other networks, including cable nets) are shying away from pricey output deals with studios, hoping to avoid "writing a fat check … for a batch of movies" that may never make it onto primetime, reports Variety‘s John Dempsey.
AMC‘s Mad Men series (which premieres July 19) is featured as "must-see TV" in Newsweek‘s cable summer programming preview. The plethora of excellent cable series premieres this summer makes it hard for any new cable series to break out, notes Variety‘s Brian Lowry, while a separate article in Variety notes that cable networks are pumping more programming dollars into "quality first-run fare … and making more noise with marketing — yet they aren’t seeing their numbers grow. They’re having to do more just to maintain the status quo."
BBC World set up a website, DemandBBC.com, to spur U.S. carriage for its BBC World News channel, which got its U.S. launch on Cablevision in April 2006, which remains its only U.S. cable market. As part of its grassroots marketing campaing, BBC World also set up a billboard in downtown Los Angeles touting the new website, and is distributing magnets to drive online petitions in cafes and other spots with Wi-Fi access in San Diego and Columbus, Ohio. Comcast and Charter Communications tell the Los Angeles Times they have had preliminary discussions with BBC World. Time Warner Cable spokeswoman Maureen Huff declined to comment on any negotiations, adding: "We’re always interested in hearing from our customers, but these expensive programmer-run campaigns are generally not that effective."
BET introduces 18 series in the next 18 months, the biggest lineup of debuts in its history, notes the New York Times. Five of those series premiere this month, including two new shows tonight — Hell Date, a blind-dating show that runs nightly, and Take the Cake, a late-night (11pm) interactive game show — and starting weekly tomorrow night, Baldwin Hills (10pm), a Laguna Beach-like reality series about spoiled teens. Starting July 25, S.O.B. (Socially Offensive Behavior), a hidden camera series hosted by D.L. Hughley; followed by Hot Ghetto Mess, a weekly look at "the good, the bad and the ugly of Black popular culture," hosted by Chappelle Show alum Charlie Murphy.
Comedy Central‘s Motherload, MTV‘s Overdrive, CNN‘s Pipeline and CBS‘s Innertube are either gone or on their way out, reports Variety in a story about the rise and fall of networks’ broadband TV channels.
ESPN‘s Baseball Tonight show is restricted from on-site coverage at tomorrow’s All-Star game in San Francisco because SportsCenter broke MLB’s embargo and announced the All-Star rosters before the end of a July 1st selection show on TBS (which ran late due to an Atlanta Braves game rain delay). Fox is broadcasting the game, while ESPN will be allowed to televise a one-hour pre-show from the ballpark. [Hollywood Reporter | AP]
ESPNEWS premieres an original series City by City, today. The cross-country six-week program profiles a different city and its sports lore daily through Aug. 17, and will be featured within ESPNEWS’ The Hotlist, Pregame or Gametime blocks.
CNN‘s former anchor Aaron Brown says Fox News‘ aggressive coverage of the Natalee Holloway disappearance was the turning point in his realization he was the wrong man for the job: "We got our our asses kicked — it was brutal," he tells Variety. "People ask me if I miss it and I say, ‘You mean do I miss Anna Nicole Smith?’"
Hallmark Channel parent Crown Media Holdings will reimburse its parent company, Hallmark Cards, $33.1 million for tax benefits disallowed by the I.R.S., according to an SEC filing Friday. [AP]
HBO and Showtime are hoping to bring SexyBack-to-Back with rival sexually explicit shows Californication (August on Showtime) and Tell Me (Sept. on HBO), observes Variety.
MTV finalized 80% of its upfront deals by Friday, the Wall Street Journal reports. MTV upfront deals used both C3 (commercial ratings + 3 days’ DVR playback data) and traditional program ratings — a "compromise," observes Mediapost. (Variety examines how Nielsen’s new TV ratings are roiling MTV and other networks in the upfront here). MTV is also seeking a new revenue stream (notes Billboard) in user-generated content, with fans remixes (or mash-ups) via MTV’s free Video Remixer service, which launched last month, boosting online views and ad dollars. MTV signed an integrated ad deal with Taco Bell that invites viewers to create avatars that may be used in Taco Bell’s "Fourthmeal" ad, which debuts during the MTV Movie Awards (Sept. 9). Finally, MTV’s new programming head Tony DiSanto plans to reduce the number of series by 20-30% (while increasing the episode orders to keep the programming hours roughly the same) in an effort to reduce similar programming concepts and unclog its development logjam, reports Variety.
NBC, producer Mark Burnett and Donald Trump are reportedly close to renewing a contract for The Apprentice, reports the New York Post and The Hollywood Reporter. New NBC programming czar Ben Silverman confirms the negotiations for up to two more seasons of The Apprentice in today’s New York Times. Bill Carter’s article says Silverman "is now so enthusiastic about the assignment of resurrecting NBC’s fortunes that he brings a small set of chimes along with him to meetings so he can play the three-note N-B-C jingle whenever a happy moment occurs." With NBC stuck in last place for the third year in a row, Silverman’s business counterpart at NBC, Marc Graboff, tells Fortune the network may scale back original programming on Fridays: "Toss in viewer fragmentation and rising production costs, and you can’t afford to pay for 19 hours a week of original high-quality programming. Something has got to give. For years everyone programmed Saturday night with originals. Now nobody programs Saturday. Maybe that will happen with Friday?" NBC’s upcoming season of Sunday Night Football is selling at up to 75% higher rates than the 2006/07 season, reports Mediaweek.
SCI FI‘s Eureka, which returns with Season 2 tomorrow night, will tackle green issues (global warming, solar energy, recycling) this season, notes the Los Angeles Times.
Spike TV wants to take the annual Nathan’s hot-dog eating contest away from ESPN, whose TV deal expired. [New York Times]
VH1 will premiere its entire first season of its first scripted comedy, I Hate My 30s, on Joost starting July 16, 10 days ahead of the series’ on-air premiere. [Hollywood Reporter] VH1 owner Viacom is an investor in Joost, a relationship that sparked a real-life relationship with the marriage this weekend of Viacom ad sales exec Sarah Baumgardner and Joost’s New York-based sales director Andrew McKee. [New York Times]
WWE wrestler Chris Benoit’s still-under-investigation double-murder-suicide makes the cover of People, while the New York Times revisits the Wikipedia entry that pre-dated the official news of the tragedy.
YES has struck online video deals with Joost, Amazon, ROO and Yahoo to make its Yankees-centric regional sports content available beyond its TV carriage footprint. [Mediaweek]
Beth Higbee was named SVP and general manager of emerging ventures at Scripps Networks, from SVP of Scripps Networks Interactive.
J.D. Myers II was named VP of Cox Business Services in Cox Communications’ Northern Viriginia market, from VP of sales.
Dan Patrick announced on his ESPN Radio show today he’s leaving ESPN. His last day will be Aug. 18.
Bob Pedersen was promoted to SVP-creative director, on-air brand creative, Comedy Central; from VP.
Dave Watson, EVP-operations, Comcast, will receive the 2007 Chairman’s Award at the CTAM Summit, July 23-25 in Washington, D.C.
Mark Zelenz was named VP-sales and distribution, The Horror Channel; from eastern region sales, Si TV.
• IN OTHER NEWS
Nominations are due Friday for CableWorld‘s "Top 50 Most Influential Minorities in Cable" power list. Click here. And there’s just one more week to submit nominees for this year’s CableFAX 100 list; click here for details.
E3 (formerly the Electronic Entertainment Expo) kicks off Wed. in Los Angeles; AP has more on this year’s toned-down gamers’ convention, which MTV‘s GameTrailers is covering (with E3 Insider) and G4 is covering live and leading up to the show.
CBS and Fox are being picketed this morning by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation at their respective TV headquarters in Los Angeles for refusing to carry ads for Trojan’s Evolve condoms. The controversial campaign, which feature anthropomorphized, people-sized pigs, have aired on ABC and NBC as well as nine cable networks including MTV and Comedy Central.
AT&T signed a multiyear deal with Synchronoss to support Apple’s iPhone; Synchronoss also works with Comcast, Cablevision, Time Warner Cable, Verizon, Level 3 and Vonage. [Wireless Week]
DirecTV was ordered to issue $125 refunds to 1,216 customers in West Virginia by the state’s Attorney General. [AP]
NBC News is providing content to Channel One‘s 10-minute in-school broadcasts. [New York Times]
Time Warner Cable is expanding to reach an additional 29,000 homes in San Antonio, reports the San Antonio Business Journal. The Time Warner Cable 100, an American-Canadian Tour stock car event at Maine’s Oxford Plains Speedway, was cancelled due to rain on Saturday and rescheduled for Aug. 11.
TVN last night debuted ROH (Ring of Honor) wrestling on cable pay-per-view with the "Respect is Earned" event.
Verizon‘s FiOS installs are leaving customers no choice by pulling their copper lines and cutting off the option to revert to their old service. [AP] Verizon tells NorthJersey.com its DSL snafus have taught it what not to do when deploying FiOS.
Prosecutors are seeking a maximum seven-year/three-month prison term for former Qwest CEO Joe Nacchio. [WSJ]
Cablevision‘s Dolans have not signed off on a new Penn Station/MSG redevelopment plan in New York. [NYT]
Ambient, a broadband over power line start-up, will not be expanded in New York City following a pilot project with Con Edison. [New York Post]
Reps. Joe Parisi (D-Madison, WI) and Sondy Pope-Roberts (D-Middleton, WI) asked Wisc. Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen to investigate AT&T-backed consumer advocacy group TV4US after complaints emerged the group was fraudulently claiming opponents as supporters. [Madison.com]
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