360AM — Morning news briefing for Wednesday, Mar. 14 (Updated: 8pm ET)
FCC chairman Kevin Martin’s proposed 30% ownership cap on cable operators is making waves this week. He’s also proposing that TV stations be allowed to lease unused digital TV capacity to FCC-approved parties such as non-profits. [Bloomberg | Philadelphia Inquirer | Los Angeles Times | Wall Street Journal | TheDeal.com]
House Commerce Committee chairman, Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) led the chorus today that grilled Martin and the four FCC commissioners at an oversight hearing of the Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet. Dingell said the FCC overstepped its authority with its recently revised video franchising rules. [AP | Dow Jones] Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA), Rep. George Radanovich (R-CA) and Rep. Nathan Deal (R-GA) voiced concerns over the imposition of the FCC’s set-top box integration ban, which the American Cable Association supported.
Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) also asked the FCC to respond in writing whether smaller cable operators should receive a waiver of current CALEA rules "which, if applied, could actually roll back the deployment of broadband services in rural America," commented ACA pres/CEO Matt Polka. The National Black Chamber of Commerce backed the FCC in the video franchise debate, while net neutrality proponents and opponents were also out in full force today. Martin, in comments to reporters after today’s hearing, said the FCC isn’t being anti-cable but pro-competition. [Reuters]
Separately, the Senate Commerce Committee will review MLB‘s "Extra Innings" deal with DirecTV at a hearing chaired by Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) on Mar. 27. Kerry’s complaint to Martin and the FCC sparked the furor that led MLB to re-open negotiations with EchoStar and the cable operators that own In Demand (Comcast, Time Warner, Cox and Advance/Newhouse) to match the deal’s terms by Mar. 31. [Bloomberg | Kerry statement].
A coalition of big tech companies—Microsoft, Google, Dell, HP, Intel and Philips—is seeking FCC approval to offer high-speed Internet access over TV airwaves. The group presented a device to FCC labs for testing that was designed by Microsoft to deliver broadband over unused TV channels’ white space. [Washington Post]
Viacom spent months scouring YouTube to prepare for this week’s $1 billion lawsuit against the Web video site and its owner, Google. More than 1.8 million videos were searched by dozens of contractors trolling YouTube in order to identify the 160,000 illegally uploaded clips from MTV, Comedy Central and its other properties cited in the suit. Time Warner and News Corp. are backing Viacom. [Los Angeles Times | New York Times | Bloomberg | Forbes | AFP | PDF of the suit]
Nielsen Media‘s Television Audience 2006 report finds (for the first time) that the number of channels received by the average TV household exceeded 100 last year. American households had an average 104.2 channels last year (up from 96.4 in 2005) although the number of channels viewed by the average household remained about the same: 15.7 channels in 2006 from 15.4 in 2005 and 15.0 in 2004, the first year Nielsen reported that statistic. [Mediapost]
DirecTV hired Euro RSCG Latino as its creative agency for its Hispanic marketing efforts. [Release]
NBC Universal and MobiTV announced a wireless distribution deal for full-length episodes from NBC, USA, Bravo, SCI FI, Telemundo and mun2. [Release] NBCU’s Digital Studios is producing a broadband video series called Breakers (gorgeous women breaking things) that will run on Break.com. [Hollywood Reporter | Release]
World Championship Sports Network signed a deal with Joost [Release]. WCSN is also sharing its coverage of the FINA World Swimming Championships in Melbourne (Mar. 25 on) with Fox Sports Net. [Release]
The Fight Network signed a deal with Joost. [Release]
Skype enhanced its VoIP service with SkypeFind, a local search feature, and a beta version of Skype Prime, targeting local advertisers. [release]
BendBroadband tapped Cisco to upgrade its network storage capacity. [Release]
Motorola and Vonage release a co-branded phone adapter with wireless router. [Release]
Thomson announced a video watermarking technology for set-top boxes. [Release]
Wegener contemplates sale. [Release]
BlueHighways TV‘s 24/7 linear network launch this week on Bresnan Communications ends its distribution deal with RFD TV. It’s also available 24/7 on C-Band satellite TV. Bresnan was the first cable operator to offer BHTV on VOD.
Bravo premieres Shear Genius—a reality series in which hair stylists compete, er, head to head—Apr. 11 following the finale of Top Design. [Release]
ESPN re-upped with Major League Lacrosse today for continued coverage on ESPN2, with all 11 games/season (5 live) broadcasting in HD as part of a multi-year agreement. MLL was founded by Jake Steinfeld, who partnered with Comcast to create ExerciseTV.
FX‘s premiere of The Riches on Monday night scored 3.8 million total viewers and 2.4 million viewers 18-49, its second-best debut of an original series.
MSG will air the WBC and WBO cruiserweight championship rematch fight between O’Neil "Supernova" Bell and Jean-Marc Mormeck.
Nickelodeon announced details on 20th annual Kids’ Choice Awards on Mar. 31. [Release]
Spike TV partners with Viacom sib AtomFilms for on-air and online Star Wars Fan Movie Challenge. [Release]
TLC premieres Take Home Handyman on Mar. 31. [Release]
WWE‘s pay-per-views will follow WrestleMania’s formula of meshing its branded storylines. [Release]
• IN OTHER NEWS
Daytime Emmy nominees announced; first-time cable net noms include TBN and Discovery’s Cash Cab. [Release]
Convicted members of Adelphia‘s founding Rigas family should find out tomorrow in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York whether their latest request for $300,000 each to help with legal fees has been approved [AP]. Adelphia’s remaining real estate assets are being auctioned on the Web by LFC Online [Release].
Cox Communications blamed a "source issue" with ION‘s Phoenix affiliate for a hard-core porn segment that interrupted a Tom Brokaw special on NBC Monday night. ION’s KPPX, in turn, called it "an act of human sabotage." [AP]
Current TV UK deemed "worthy but dull" by TV critic. [London Telegraph]
Google shifts stance on net neutrality. [GigaOm] Or not. [Huffington Post]