360AM — Morning news briefing for Tuesday, Apr. 17 (Updated 8pm ET)

NAB president and CEO David Rehr plans to reframe its debate with the cable industry by finding new phrases instead of "multicast must carry" and "down conversion." In a keynote speech at the NAB Show in Las Vegas yesterday, Rehr said broadcasters should reposition public opinion by arguing that cable operators want to withhold vital channels from consumers any time, say, there’s a retransmission consent argument over broadcasters’ multicast digital signals. American Cable Association president and CEO Matt Polka took particular exception to Rehr’s comments and in particular to a new NAB ad that twists Polka’s words to shore up the NAB’s position on retransmission consent. For more on the organizations’ scrap, click here.

Time Warner Inc. is considering "gradually" reducing its 84% stake in Time Warner Cable. Writes today’s Wall Street Journal: "Cable has been a core part of the company and its precursors for decades and is now the biggest contributor to profits. But the long-term future of cable, as the Internet emerges as a viable venue for watching TV, is murky. Some within Time Warner wonder whether the company wouldn’t be better off if it were to get out of cable and double down on the Web—where it already owns AOL—by buying another major Internet company, just as News Corp. acquired MySpace and Google Inc. bought YouTube." The issue will be debated at its board meeting next month while somewhere, Steve Case and Gerry Levin are laughing (or crying…)

Meanwhile, AOL pursued advertisers with its "First Look" upfront event, a first for the Web portal, today in New York. "This game is all about scale, and AOL is one of only four companies that has it," said Randy Falco, AOL Chairman and CEO, in a prepared statement. AOL’s original programming announcements: an online game based on Shrek the Third; the return of Mark Burnett’s Gold Rush this fall; Million Dollar Bill, an interactive game hosted by Leeza Gibbons; iLand, a reality competition hosted by Brooke Burns and produced by Endemol; and an online extension of The Ellen DeGeneres Show.

The Virginia Tech shootings became a gruesome death-count tally by cable news nets yesterday, writes Tom Shales in the Washington Post. CNN broke the news at 10:07am ET followed by Fox News at 10:21 and MSNBC at 10:13. The stand-out reporting of the day wasn’t by any media outlet, but by VT grad student Jamal Albarghouti. His cellphone video captured on the scene (and quickly emailed to CNN’s I-Report service) registered 1.8 million views on CNN.com by last night, says the New York Times.

Cox Communications is launching Pivot-branded wireless phone service "by early fall" in Fairfax County and Fredericksburg, Northern Virginia, its third announced market to launch quad play service (landline phone, cellphone, TV and broadband) after San Diego and Phoenix. Pivot is the cellphone joint venture between Sprint Nextel and Comcast, Time Warner, Cox and Advance/Newhouse, which owns and operates Bright House Networks. [Washington Post]

Bresnan Communications is switching off analog subscribers. [Great Falls Tribune, MT]

Verizon‘s FiOS TV was approved in White Plains and Airmont, NY, and launched in Canton, MA. New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo called on the state’s PUC to fine Verizon for "chronically poor" repair service, which he attributed to a focus on its fiber rollout at the expense of its traditional telephone customers. [Reuters]

WSJ looks at the FCC‘s auction of spectrum licenses and questions motives of two bids: former FCC chairman Reed Hundt’s proposal, which aims "to encumber a portion of the spectrum with obligations that will drive down its value and make it less attractive to larger would-be bidders like Verizon, AT&T and the cable companies," and Nextel founder Morgan O’Brien, who the article says wants the government to subsidize his new cellphone company.



• PROGRAMMING

Comcast‘s Eastern division launches Iron Man on Demand, a VOD service featuring former Baltimore Oriole Cal Ripken, who’s being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in July.

Comedy Central today launched Open Mic Fight, an online competition for comedians; the winner gets on-air, VOD, online (including iTunes) and mobile exposure and a spot on the network’s comedy tour. [Release]

Discovery‘s U.S. Hispanic Networks group (Discovery en Español, Discovery Kids en Español, and Travel and Living – Viajar y Vivir) announced Earth Day-related green programming encompassing on-air, online and grassroots initiatives.

ESPN2‘s Cold Pizza is being renamed ESPN First Take on May 7, when it will relocate to Bristol from NYC and will telecast in HD. It will follow the network’s simulcast of Mike and Mike in the Morning, which will also originate in HD on May 7.

Fox Reality is producing 30 webisodes in a series titled Nightclub Confessions on its website starting May 30; the best clips will be packaged in a one-hour special that will air on channel on June 30. [Variety]

MTV holds its upfront event today in New York, where it will downplay its ratings slide and talk up digital and off-network spots where its young viewers are more often found these days, including its growing virtual world hub at vMTV.com. [Los Angeles Times | New York Post]

Nickelodeon‘s SpongeBob "Friend or Foe?" special that aired Friday Apr. 13 was not only tops with kids (3.4 million viewers 2-11) but was #1 for total viewers on cable, with 5.9 million viewers P2+.

Nick Jr. announced 26 half-hour episodes and a one-hour special of Olivia, based on Ian Falconer’s popular kids’ book.

Showtime sold The Tudors to the BBC at MIPTV in Cannes, where E! Networks is (for the first time) repping Comcast step-sibling TV One. E!’s sales team is selling 50 hours of TV One series Turn Up the Heat with G. Garvin, Living it Up with Patti LaBelle and TV One on One with Cathy Hughes.

Sundance Channel launches its new eco-programming block, The Green, tonight – here’s our video on the launch.

TV5Monde USA will air the only live coverage in the U.S. of the Cannes Film Festival opening (May 16) and closing (May 27) ceremonies, when jury prizes will be presented following the red carpet coverage. [Release]

Former Miramax chief Harvey Weinstein tells the Los Angeles Times about why he’s no longer working for The Man — ie Disney or its former CEO: "Whenever I wanted to buy a cable channel or some other business, Michael Eisner wouldn’t let me do it." Miramax reportedly kicked the tires on a few cable networks, including Rainbow’s AMC and IFC, which just moved to Cablevision’s MSG Media holdings.



• TECHNOLOGY

WSJ profiles YouTVpc.com, a video website based in New Mexico that’s a gateway to pirated movies and TV shows. (Not mentioned but similar: UK’s TV Links site, which is packed with US TV shows.) Meanwhile, Google is introducing a system called "Claim Your Content" that will filter copyright-protected content. CNET reports that CEO Eric Schmidt told the NAB Show yesterday, "We are very close to turning this on."

Digeo announced an Intel-powered Moxi Multi-Room HD DVR for the IPTV market.

Nielsen‘s biggest fear? Google, along with the rest of the media world these days. Nielsen CFO Brian West told analysts on the company’s first earnings call yesterday, "Television advertising is about $70 billion—many times bigger than Internet. So you can understand, at least, Google’s motivation in their case," reports MediaPost. Meanwhile, in a counter-strike before Google swoops in, Yahoo struck an advertising deal with publishers representing 264 newspapers. [New York Times]

TiVo received "$16.2 million in technology revenues from licensing and engineering work recognized from our Comcast Agreement" for its fiscal year ended Jan. 31, according to its 10-K filing. The co-developed DVR has yet to launch, while a similar DVR deal with Cox is still pending. TiVo didn’t report any Cox-derived revenues in its filing.

Vonage admits (despite PR claims) it doesn’t have a back-up technology should it lose its bid to overturn a jury’s verdict that it infringed on Verizon’s patents. [AP]

Shirley Brady

• Click here for 360AM news briefing for Monday, Apr. 16 >>

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FCC Meeting Dispatch

FCC chmn Ajit Pai would not confirm whether or not he will be leaving the Commission before the end of the year when asked during a press conference Wednesday. “I have made no decisions and I do not have any

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