360AM — Morning news briefing for Wednesday, Mar. 27 (Updated: 8pm ET)

Yesterday’s two-hour Senate hearing on MLB’s deal with DirecTV has baseball fans worried that they’ll be shut out from Extra Innings unless they sign up for DTV or MLB’s Web version of its out-of-games package. MLB promised to meet with In Demand and EchoStar before Sunday’s regular season opener for a final round of negotiations. [Cable360 | AP | Bloomberg | New York Times | Los Angeles Times] At the very least, this event should certainly be lively this morning. The Washington Post‘s Andrew Cohen vents his frustration as a fan here.

The digital TV transition will be debated before a House subcommittee today. Alex Nogales, president of the  National Hispanic Media Coalition, tells the LA Times ahead of his testimony today: "Am I concerned that our community is going to be left out? Of course." Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt also testified before the committee.

NCTA announced a roster of heavy-hitters for The Cable Show, May 7-9 in Las Vegas. Sure to be a huge draw: CableFAX executive editor Mike Grebb, who’s opening (as in performing a solo acoustic set—the journalist by day is a musician in his spare time) for none other than K.C. and the Sunshine Band at the show’s closing party on May 9 at the House of Blues. Lamé jumpsuits optional. Details on the other luminaries hitting the Cable Show are here.



• MOBILE

At CTIA Wireless in Orlando, FCC chairman Kevin Martin yesterday told attendees he wants universal wireless access in the U.S. "The wireless industry is the most competitive of all the sectors that we regulate," he said, noting that 98% of Americans have a choice of three or more mobile providers. Martin said the FCC’s decision last week to classify wireless broadband Internet access as an information service will make it competitive with other broadband technologies. Separately, AT&T COO Randall Stephenson said its Cingular arm has received more than a million customers have inquired about iPhone availability, which Apple ships in June exclusively with Cingular service. [IDG News] CTIA released its latest wireless research this morning.

Viacom announced a flood of other deals, including launching new MTV, VH1 and Comedy Central mobile websites today. Pepsi and Intel signed on as charter sponsors for MTVN’s mobile offerings, which add to MTV and Comedy Central’s mobile TV channels. MTVN expanded its partnership with Sprint to 14 branded channels, the most MTVN content of any other carrier. Nickelodeon and The N are licensing content to Amp’d Mobile, including creating a worldwide SpongeBob SquarePants channel for Amp’d Mobile TV. GameTrailers also launches a mobile video channel on Amp’d including an exlusive-to-mobile series, Go Gaming. BET announced the 106 & Park Mobile Fan Club, a mobile offering featuring ringtones and other exclusive wireless content. Paramount launches a mobile movie studio site featuring micro-sites for individual releases; the sites link to Fandango for ticket-purchasing. Last but not least, Comedy Central is launching a mobile version of this South Park game for cellphone users [Release]. The New York Times uses the launch as a hook to profile the network.

Cartoon Network unveiled CallToons, a cool feature unveiled at its upfront last month in New York. Launching with the character Bloo from Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, the service creates ringtones, ringbacks, wallpapers, audio and text alerts with the voice and environment related to that character. [Release | Upfront release] Turner Broadcasting EVP Dennis Quinn gives RCR a sneak peek at what else is coming to mobile, including more from CNN and Adult Swim.

Also: Cable’s wireless j.v. with Sprint (to be marketed as Pivot), will expand to small businesses [AP]. AT&T, Sprint and Verizon trial Cisco’s 3G wireless connectivity [Unstrung], while Sprint is expanding its services for the healthcare industry. [RCR] USA Today looks at V Cast Mobile … some "gee-whiz" phone features … and cellphone scams aimed at kids.



• PROGRAMMING

Bravo‘s Top Design series created a virtual world outpost in Cyworld.

CNN celebrates Larry King’s 50th anniversary in broadcasting with an on-air tribute, Apr. 16-22. [Release]

ESPN is the most popular channel on Frontier Airlines’ inflight satellite TV system and among the top 3 faves on JetBlue’s DirecTV service. [New York Times]

GSN will premiere Camouflage, a hidden word gameshow, in July. [Hollywood Reporter]

Hallmark Channel parent Crown Media added Fred Dressler to its board. Time Warner Cable’s former EVP of programming is also chairman of the board of advisors of S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.

HBO hosted a premiere for The Sopranos‘ finale last night in New York. NY Daily News has the red carpet pix; Seth Arenstein reviews the first 2/8 final episodes.

The History Channel will simulcast Act of Honor, a special about Marine Sergeant Rafael Peralta who died in Iraq in 2004, on May 19 in tandem with The History Channel en Espanol. THC also premieres Something About Mary Magadalene (ha), a one-hour special shot in HD, in the 2nd quarter.

MASN launched a toll-free phone number to end confusion over where to find it on cable and satellite operators’ lineups; Comcast alone has 50-plus positions for MASN and MASN2 on its systems. [AP]

MTV plans on-air and Times Square blow-out for The Hills finale Monday night. [NY Daily News]

Time Warner Cable NYC beefs up its high-def lineup with FSN NY HD, MTVN’s MHD and A&E HD in Staten Island; its NY/NJ cluster also adds WWOR HD. [TVPredictions]

UFC filed a lawsuit against Showtime and its mixed martial arts franchise, Elite XC, alleging copyright infringement and unfair competition. [PW Insider]

USA Today looks at cable TV networks and teens. [USAT 1 | USAT 2]

• IN OTHER NEWS

AT&T‘s U-verse now has more than 10,000 subscribers, its wireline president Ralph de la Vega announced at a Bank of America media conference today in New York. DirecTV CFO Mike Palkovic told the BofA analysts’ conference that Liberty Media would add value to DirecTV once it acquires control from News Corp. thanks to its distribution and technology expertise. Time Warner Cable CFO John Martin commented that more cable industry consolidation is likely, although he said acquisitions aren’t an imperative for TWC at this point in time. Cablevision COO Tom Rutledge shrugged off Verizon‘s FiOS marketing in his company’s footprint, saying 92% of Verizon’s marketing spend was in areas it can’t provide service. [The Hollywood Reporter | MarketWatch | Reuters]

Verizon confirms Fios1 local TV channel launch in Washington, D.C. [AP] It’s boosting FiOS speeds 4x upstream and 8x downstream with Lewisville, TX, and Kirklyn, PA the first to get its ‘G-PON’ Fiber-to-the-Home tech. Verizon also announced Make It Work, a Geek Squad-like initiative to help customers integrate FiOS TV and Internet services with their multimedia home networks. FiOS has been on a roll in the NE: it’s now launched or approved in 39 communities in the state of MA, 180 in NJ and 30 in NY.

DirecTV activated local HD channels in Spokane, WA; Jacksonville, FL; Greenville, SC; and Harrisburg, PA.

Only 259,000 CableCARDs in use; blame tech problems. [Light Reading]

Vyyo secured $35 million in additional funding from Goldman, Sachs, following this week’s hiring of Jim Chiddix and Wayne Davis as chairman and CEO respectively. [Release] Cox is working with Vyyo in the U.S., says TheStreet.com, citing insiders.

Cable Positive will be honored on Apr. 26 by the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health. [Release]

IBM researchers demo prototype chip that downloads an HD movie in 1 second. "The world’s fastest optical chipset” boasts 160 gigabits per second speed and is designed to be integrated into PCs and set-top boxes. [Release]

BBDO is embedding content in TV commercials that viewers can only see by slowing down the commercial and watching it frame by frame on a DVR. [Globe & Mail]

Microsoft officially announced Xbox 360, which boasts 120 gigabytes of storage and an HD video connection. It also announced new content deal to bring high-def video to the Xbox Live Marketplace, including New Line Cinema and Warner Bros. titles. [Release | AP | USA Today]

YouTube offers an outlet for failed pilots, such as Comedy Central’s nixed Three Strikes [LA Times] … shades of Bravo’s Brilliant But Cancelled.

Blogosphere speculation: Google VOD coming to cable?

Shirley Brady

• Click here for 360AM news briefing for Tuesday, Mar. 27 >>

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