FCC chairman Kevin Martin informed Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) that he is investigating the proposed DirecTV exclusive deal for MLB‘s Extra Innings package, in response to Kerry’s concerns earlier this month about the impact of such exclusivity on fans. "I share your concern," wrote Martin, who has given Major League Baseball a 30-day deadline to file a report to the Commission. [AP | Kerry’s press release | PDF of Martin’s letter to Kerry]

CBS
announced long-term retransmission consent deals with nine cable operators. The undisclosed operators, serving more than one million subscribers, include "several top 25 MSOs." According to the press release, the new agreements "include analog, digital, multicast and high-definition rights to programming on CBS owned-and-operated television stations." CBS reportedly pays 50 cents per subscriber in its retrans deals.

Statewide franchising battle heats up in Florida with part of "Consumer Choice Act of 2007" going before the state Legislature today (Pensacola News Journal) while the Missouri Cable Telecommunications Assoc. hopes to reinstate more favorable (to MCTA members) language in the statewide franchise bill that MO’s Senate approved on Tuesday and now goes to the House for review. (Kansas City Business Journal)

The Illinois state cable association slammed a franchise reform bill that was introduced in the House today. "The AT&T/SBC proposed legislation is nothing but a Trojan Horse, designed to carry their selfish agenda into the homes of cable customers across the state," said Joan Etten, president of the Cable Television and Communications Association of Illinois. The Bloomington Pantagraph covered AT&T’s press conference on House Bill 1500.

• COMPETITION

Verizon will add Revver user-generated content to its entertainment portal, Verizon Surround, in late March and then to FiOS TV later this year. Comcast (and Turner Broadcasting) invested in Revver last year. Fortune magazine’s new issue says Verizon’s investment in FiOS won’t pay off for "years"; meanwhile, the service is expanding to the village of Port Chester in NY’s Westchester county (the green light brings FiOS to 27 NY communities) and just landed its largest PA franchise to date. Lower Merion Township’s franchise approval increases the number of Pennsylvania households covered by FiOS agreements to 516,000.

Fision, an IPTV service provider, launches today in Houston with a triple play offering of 400 digital channels (including HD networks) from companies including Fox Cable, Turner, Disney/ESPN and Starz; high-speed online service with speeds of up to 10Mbps (or 15Mbps for an extra $100/mo.); and digital phone service with unlimited calling in North America.

Lafayette Utilities System won a victory today when Louisiana’s Supreme Court ruled in its favor. LUS has been fighting since 2004 to build a fiber-optic network offering voice, video and broadband service to all residents. Its Fiber for the Future initiative is opposed locally by Cox Communications and BellSouth.

Qwest received FCC approval to bundle local and long-distance phone service offering across its 14-state footprint. "With this historic, unanimous vote, the FCC recognized that competition in Qwest’s service territory is thriving," commented Qwest SVP for federal relations Gary Lytle. "We applaud the FCC for freeing us from legacy requirements imposed on our long-distance service that had hindered our ability to deliver service to customers."

South Carolina wants to offer a state-funded free wireless broadband network. (Greenville News)

• PROGRAMMING

Bravo will air a five-episode mini-marathon of HBO’s Taxicab Confessions tomorrow night; the Emmy-winning hidden camera series made its basic cable debut on Bravo in December.

Time Warner Cable’s Dodgers on Demand channel batters up for spring training.

FUNimation Entertainment (which has an anime network on FiOS TV and on cable via deals with OlympuSAT and CoLours TV) tomorrow unveils a social networking site, animeonline.com, at New York’s Comic Con.

MASN signed a deal with Cox Communications in Hampton Roads, VA, to air "virtually every game" of the Washington Nationals and Baltimore Orioles starting Mar. 28, with each team getting at least 150 games televised this season. (If their games overlap, one of the broadcasts will air on the system’s channel 11). MASN’s addition will bump faith-based programmer INSP to digital. (The Virginian-Pilot)

College programmer mtvU announces spring programming.

Oxygen‘s debut of The Bad Girls Club last night broke the network’s records for original series ratings by scoring a 0.8 HH rating and a 1.0 among women 18-49.

SOAPNet launched in Comcast’s Washington state systems.

Hispanic kids programmer Sorpresa! launches a broadband channel, sorpresatv.com, in partnership with Brightcove.

Starz inBlack schedules Black History Month special Conversations (with Harry Belafonte, Nick Cannon and other celebs) for Mon. Feb. 26.

Queer Eye‘s Thom Filicia debuts on Style Network with Mar. 28 Style My Nest series premiere.

TCM‘s bump from Time Warner Cable’s basic line-up in Los Angeles irks LA Times writer. (reg. req.)

The Tennis Channel signed John McEnroe and Martina Navratilova as lead on-air commentators for TTC’s French Open coverage (May 27-June 8). Navratilova next month starts shooting a VOD series for lifeskool (Mag Rack’s new name starting Mar. 29) — for more info, watch Cable360’s video with lifeskool EVP/GM Dan Ronayne.

Vegas Entertainment Network launches on broadband (TheV.tv) and plans HD network this summer; hosts include Wayne Newton (naturally) and, less naturally, Zowie (son of David) Bowie.

WWE‘s three TV shows—USA’s Monday Night RAW, The CW’s Friday Night Smackdown and SCI FI’s ECW: Extreme Championship Wrestling—were #1 on their respective networks for the second week in a row. 

• IN OTHER NEWS

IBM forecasts a 23% increase in sales of media content over cellphones and online in the next four years, with the biggest increase (33%, to $25 billion) in professionally-produced programming over the Web. (Reuters)

Comcast Central, the new digital guide popping up on channel 960 in select Comcast markets, gets a thumbs up from Detroit Free Press reviewer while TiVo fans wait for the green version of Comcast Central (including Sprint media downloads) previewed at CES in January.

Cable Positive cancelled its Positively Time to Laugh fundraiser (Mar. 5); the move doesn’t affect its Mar. 6 event in New York honoring Time Warner Cable’s Glenn Britt.

Suddenlink is being sued by an irate subscriber in Charleston, WV. (Charleston Daily Mail)

Cisco and Apple agreed to share iPhone brand name. (AP)

Shirley Brady


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