Cable360AM — News briefing for Thursday, Dec. 27 »

Select members of the Cable 360 news team are basking in the glow of their after-Christmas-sales purchases as they suppress the urge to dwell on their rising credit card bills. Good morning.

For many, the holidays are nearly all about shopping, so The Hollywood Reporter appropriately revives speculation on a deal to tie market leader QVC with competitor HSN, as Barry Diller and John Malone parry and thrust over price. Diller wants a premium price for HSN, THR says, valuing the asset on future earnings. Joining these dominant networks would create a home shopping “juggernaut with annual revenue of about $10 billion,” it adds. Malone’s Liberty Media controls QVC parent Liberty Interactive, which also holds a 20%+ stake in HSN. The combined networks would continue to run their cable shopping channels separately, THR believes, although counter-programming and sharing vendors are possibilities. [The Hollywood Reporter]

In a holiday gift of sorts for the Dolans, Madison Square Garden quietly settled a sexual harassment suit filed by a former NY Rangers cheerleader 3 years ago. No monetary details of the settlement were released. Had the case gone to court it could have offered lurid testimony of the kind that rocked New York a few months ago, when a female employee of the NY Knicks, Anucha Browne Sanders, charged the Garden with the same thing, and won. Just 17 days ago, the Garden agreed to pay Browne Sanders $11.5 million to settle. [The NY Times]

Remembering Fred Dressler
With the passing Monday of Fred Dressler, aged 66, we present some highlights from CableWorld’s December 2006 tribute to cable’s programming Godfather, a man who was feared, admired, respected and loved. Please email memories of Fred Dressler for publication to: sarenstein@accessintel.com [Click for CableWorld’s tribute to Fred Dressler.]

Some Dressler Trivia
• An adept baseball player, he had a tryout with the Philadelphia Phillies.
• As a reporter for UPI, he interviewed the Beatles when they came to the United States.
• He got interested in cable upon meeting industry pioneer Bill Daniels.
• Lived in Westport, Conn., and Florida, with his wife, Tricia, who produced educational programming through EduCable LLC’s education showcase product line.

Dressler’s M.O. at the Negotiating Table
• Possess a well-rounded understanding of operator, programmer and customer needs.
• Stay abreast of industry developments and always think ahead.
• Keep personal relationships separate from business.
• Honestly, even if bluntly, advocate your company’s position.
• Be demanding yet fair.
• Know when to give and when to leverage.
• Work tirelessly to achieve agreement.

They Said It
It was amazing how many executives came out of the woodwork to share their Fred-isms after Dressler retired in December 2006. Here are some of our favorites:  

"I always could get a square deal from Fred," but [with much laughter], "it was often painful." Doug Holloway, president, cable investments, NBC Universal
"He was never a jerk and never went beyond the bounds of reasonableness. He expected that back in return." Debra Lee, chairman and CEO, BET Holdings

"If you crossed the line, [Fred would] roar like a lion and scare the hell out of you." David Zaslav, president/CEO of Discovery Communications
"He once threw a calculator at me," but that was just part of Dressler’s ‘unique’ negotiating style." Lindsay Gardner, former president, affiliate sales and marketing, Fox Cable Networks, recalling a negotiating standoff over National Geographic Channel.
"No matter what the complexity of the deal or the situation, [Fred’s] never been overmatched."Bill Goodwyn, president of affiliate sales and marketing, Discovery Networks U.S.
"Fred was always great at anticipating what would happen to the business over the long term of a deal." Matt Blank, chairman and CEO, Showtime Networks
Networks resorted to all manner of tactics to win over Dressler. Gerry Laybourne had employees chant Dressler’s name to send him positive vibrations about carrying Oxygen. "Everyone chanted ‘Fred Dressler, Fred Dressler’ and we had his picture up on a screen like Chairman Mao." Gerry Laybourne, Founder, Oxygen

Briefly Noted
The Golf Channel says next year it plans to use a Doppler radar technology to measure a golfer’s club movement and ball flight during its PGA tour coverage. [The Hollywood Reporter]

RCN’s board renewed Peter Aquino as the company’s President and CEO for 3 years. Michael Katzenstein was named non-executive chairman of the board. Executive chairman James Mooney retired from the board.

Mad Money host Jim Cramer’s new book dispenses surprisingly sobering advice despite its author’s manic rants on CNBC to “buy, buy, buy” hot stocks, a BusinessWeek reviewer writes. [BusinessWeek] 

Summer hits TNT’s The Closer and USA’s Burn Notice are in doubt for new seasons due to the Writers Strike, but HBO’s In Treatment (Jan 28), The Wire (Jan 6) and John Adams original movie (March) are ready to go, as is AMC’s Breaking Bad (Jan 20), The Wall Street Journal says. SciFi’s Battlestar Galactica (March) has about half its season in the can. [The Wall St Journal

Comcast customers in the Chicago area must switch from Comcast Digital Phone to Comcast Digital Voice by April 21, the Sun-Times reports. Digital Phone relied on AT&T equipment, the paper says. Comcast confirms the switch, but won’t say how many customers will need to make the change. Price packages for the services are similar. [Sun-Times]

Online shopping giant Amazon.com said this year’s holiday season was its best (it says that each year) and a few cable-related items were among the best sellers, including the #3 top selling book by Stephen Colbert I Am America (And So Can You) and the #1 top selling DVD: BBC series Planet Earth (whose American version was seen on Discovery Channel). [Tech Crunch]

Today in CableFAX Daily: Remembering Fred Dressler and Court TV’s plans for becoming truTV.

[Yesterday’s 360 AM]

• Got a tip? Email sarenstein@accessintel.com.

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