Cable360AM — News briefing for Wednesday, Sept. 12 »

The FCC voted last night (with some dissent, and much haggling that delayed its meeting 11 hours) to renew program access rules through 2012; require cable operators make must-carry TV stations’ digital signals viewable to all their customers, analog and digital, after the DTV deadline (but only for three years, in a win for the cable industry); and potentially laid the groundwork for A la carte-to-come with a move to limit programmers from bundling networks in carriage deals. More details here.

TNT‘s The Closer set a Live + Same Day ratings record for basic cable by attracting 9.2 million viewers in 6.8 million households for Monday night’s season finale. TNT held the previous Live + Same Day record, 8.8 million viewers and 6.4 million households, for June’s third-season premiere of The Closer — which in turn broke the previous benchmark of 8.3 million set by its second-season premiere.

Former Cartoon Network head Jim Samples is joining Scripps Networks to run HGTV. The former EVP/GM of Cartoon Network Worldwide (who resigned from Turner in February after taking the fall for Adult Swim‘s Boston marketing fiasco) will begin his new post Oct. 1. He will replace departing HGTV president Judy Girard.

Is Sept. 19 HD-Day for DirecTV? [TVPredictions]

Dish Network will offer HD telecasts of 40 Colorado Avalanche and 40 Denver Nuggets regular season games on Altitude Sports & Entertainment. Dish also expects to launch NHL Center Ice in HD Oct. 1, according to Monday night’s "Charlie Chat" with EchoStar execs. [SatelliteGuys.US]

Britney Spears’ attempted comeback at Sunday night’s MTV Video Music Awards boosted VMA ratings 23% over last year, averaging a 6.4 for persons 12-34, setting a 2007 basic cable ratings record for that demo, and over 7 million total viewers. MTV.com also had its busiest day ever, attracting more than 8.7 million unique visitors on Monday. MHD, MTVN’s high-def network, will repeat Sunday’s VMA telecast in HD (a first) on Sept. 22. Meanwhile, VMA performer Kanye West accused MTV of exploiting Spears by having her open the VMAs when she wasn’t prepared, reports AP — instead of, say, opening with his new single.

Viacom is moving its men 18-34-skewing Web properties under one banner, Spike.com, in the new year. Websites for Spike TV, Xfire, iFilm and GameTrailers will fold into the new site, which will be overseen by Spike SVP of digital and video John Slusser (and seems to buck Viacom’s aggressive Web domination plans). The website also aims to be an online destination for Spike TV’s staple of mixed martial arts. [Variety | Ad Age]

News Corp. president Peter Chernin yesterday said Fox and its cable networks won’t follow NBCU‘s iTunes pull-out, reports Reuters, despite their pending Hulu Web video joint venture. Apple is said to be in talks with movie studies about launching movie rentals on iTunes, reports the Financial Times [via CNNMoney].

CBS attorney Robert Corn-Revere yesterday argued before the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that the FCC’s $550,000 fine levied against CBS over Janet Jackson’s 2004 Super Bowl "wardrobe malfunction" should be overturned. The Legal Intelligencer has more.

Cox Communications plans to spend $25 million to upgrade its Southern Arizona network from 750 MHz to 1 GHz capacity so it can add more HDTV and VOD content in Tucson and surrounding areas. [Arizona Daily Star]

Charter Communications launched telephone service in San Luis Obispo County, CA.

Verizon‘s FiOS TV received top marks (96%) in a new customer satisfaction survey conducted by ChangeWave Research. DirecTV was #2 with 89%, Dish Network scored 82%, and Comcast and AT&T‘s U-verse tied for fourth with 73%. ChangeWave is run by Fox News personality Tobin Smith.

Verizon received two more NYC-area video franchises for FiOS TV: Peekskill, in Westchester County, and the village of East Williston in Long Island. Verizon Business also announced a new pricing plan for its wholesale customers.

Satellite TV hacking is illegal but not a $100,000 offense, a federal appeals court ruled yesterday. The decision in DirecTV v. Huynh by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said section 605(e)(4) of the Federal Communications Act cannot be applied to individuals who alter or purchase reformatted smart cards to pirate DirecTV’s signal. [Wired]

Comedy Central‘s Jon Stewart will host the 79th Academy Awards (airing live on ABC, Feb. 25) following a one-year break that featured Ellen DeGeneres as the Oscar host this year.

HDNet today announced HDNet Fights, a mixed martial arts venture that will not feature owner Mark Cuban squaring off against NBA referees, MSO programming heads or former Dallas Maverick Steve Nash. Cuban unveiled his latest sports investment at a press conference in Dallas with former UFC champ Guy Metzger.

Sling Media‘s Slingbox technology will be offered to digital TV customers in the Netherlands, via a deal with Liberty Global’s UPC Broadband. [C21Media]

WICT announced the recipients of its 2007 Accolades, to be awarded at the 23rd Annual WICT Gala on Nov. 15 in Washington, D.C. This year’s honorees: Time Warner Cable’s retiring EVP of corporate affairs Lynn Yaeger, Weather Channel EVP/GM Wonya Lucas, and TNT for The Closer and WE tv for its 2006 doc on Vietnam nurses hosted by Dana Delany.

Former Viacom/MTV Networks CEO Tom Freston and former Viacom Entertainment Group chairman/CEO Jonathan Dolgen are backing Michael Eisner’s Veoh Networks. They participated (with Goldman Sachs) in the Web video start-up’s Series C funding round, which raised $25 million in August, and will serve as advisors.

Yesterday was the first day of testimony in former Madison Square Garden executive Anucha Browne Sanders’ sexual harassment trial against New York Knicks president Isiah Thomas. Her suit also names Cablevision/MSG CEO James Dolan, who reportedly refused to pay her between $6 million and $10 million to avoid a trial. [NY Newsday]

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