360AM — News briefing for Tuesday, May 29 >>

How NBC spent the Memorial Day holiday: finalizing an executive shake-up [here’s the release] that shows president of entertainment Kevin Reilly the door (by buying out his just-renewed contract) and gives hotshot producer Ben Silverman a bigger role guiding programming strategy and development going forward. Silverman was today named co-chairman of NBC Entertainment and NBC Universal Television Studio with Marc Graboff, with both reporting to NBCU pres/CEO Jeff Zucker. With today’s announcement, Silverman’s Reveille LLC independent production company signed a two-year extension on its first-look deal with NBCU, to which Silverman hitched his shingle with a first-look deal as part of the Vivendi Universal Entertainment sale that created NBC Universal. Reveille’s string of hits includes NBC’s The Office and The Biggest Loser, ABC’s Ugly Betty and Showtime’s The Tudors. Reilly, whose contract was renewed in March through 2010, reportedly pushed to exit his contract after feeling slighted (today’s release says his departure was "mutually agreed") despite being responsible for NBC’s biggest recent hit series, Heroes. He oversaw programming at FX before returning to NBC (where he began his career) in 2003 and apparently—according to Hollywood wags—is now talking to HBO. Graboff, who was named president, NBC Universal Television, West Coast, in February, will continue to run domestic TV distribution. [More: Los Angeles Times | Variety | New York Times | Wall Street Journal | Deadline Hollywood] Silverman, meanwhile, is certain to greenlight a pet project that Reilly passed on for this year’s upfront. He was quoted in the Australian press over the weekend touting his planned U.S. adaptation of Aussie hit Kath and Kim, a cult comedy that aired here on NBCU’s Trio and then Sundance Channel.

Charter Communications announced Friday it signed a deal, a third of the way into the baseball season, to offer the MLB Extra Innings out-of-market games package to its customers. As with In Demand‘s owners (Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications and Advance/Newhouse’s Bright House Networks) and Cablevision and DirecTV, Charter agreed to launch the Major League Baseball Channel on Jan. 1, 2009. Because of the delay, Charter is offering MLBEI at 20% off ($159.96) before July 8th while customers with two services, such as cable and phone, get 30% off ($139.99) and triple-play customers get 40% off ($199.99). [Wisconsin State Journal]

Major League Baseball execs revisit this season’s thorny MLB Extra Innings negotiations that led to the MLB Channel getting carriage commitments. "We started doing one-year deals on Extra Innings in 2004," Tim Brosnan, baseball’s EVP for business, tells the New York Times. "Some people thought that Extra Innings was the dog and the channel the tail," notes Chris Tully, baseball’s SVP for broadcasting. Brosnan says it might have been a different outcome "if not for the fan furor, Congressional scrutiny or DirecTV’s willingness to drop its exclusivity on Extra Innings. ‘We have to credit a confluence of events. We could only be so smart.’"

Get ready for a prolonged upfront: Mediaweek reports that a handful of major cable programming groups—A&E Television Networks, MTV Networks, NBCU’s USA/Bravo/SCI FI—are holding out for program ratings in this upfront while media buyers are holding out for negotiations based on commercial ratings, which Nielsen starts issuing this week. BusinessWeek says Google launched its first national test of Google TV ads with EchoStar on May 14 as a "not-so-subtle tweak" of the upfronts. The article notes a push among media buyers to condense broadcast networks’ upfront presentations into one day and lose the over-the-top and drawn out week of individual events. AP looks at creative ways networks (including TBS) are producing original ad-supported programming for commercial pods to keep viewers from fast-forwarding or changing the channel during breaks.

The attorneys who successfully invalidated Forgent‘s patent on behalf of EchoStar note that more than a dozen companies including Time Warner Cable, Comcast, Cox, Charter, Digeo, Motorola and Scientific Atlanta settled with Forgent for tens of millions of dollars; DirecTV reached a separate settlement with Forgent for an estimated $8 million.

Cox Communications launched Pivot wireless phone service in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, OK.

Canada’s Rogers Communications more than tripled its annual dividend (from 4 cents a share to 12.5 cents a share) after posting five straight quarters of profit growth. [Release]

Thomson delivered its one-millionth HD set-top to DirecTV.

Nielsen said it fixed a technical glitch impacting New Orleans (which slid from 43rd DMA to 54th after Hurricane Katrina) and will start implementing new metered ratings for the market on June 1. [MediaPost]

More on parents exposing infants to TV, with new research showing parents (who believe, contrary to American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines, they’re fostering their kids’ development through "educational" viewing) are exposing 40% of three-month-olds and younger infants to 45 minutes/day of TV time and 90% of kids 2 and under to 90 minutes+/day. University of Washington pediatrician Dimitri Christakas, who co-authored the study, comments: "What I’m troubled by is the notion that parents think it’s good for their kids. That’s more likely to lead to excessive viewing rather than occasional viewing." [Boston Globe]



• OBITUARIES

Barbara Cox Anthony, the billionaire heir to the Cox media fortune that includes Cox Communications, died yesterday; she was 84. Her father founded the company that her son, James C. Kennedy, now runs as chairman and CEO of Cox Enterprises. [Company statement | AP]

Edward Hewson Jr. is dead; he was 73. He founded King VideoCable, a division of his Seattle-based King Broadcasting, along with Coast Communications, which continues to offer voice, video and Internet service in Washington state. He also founded what is now National Mobile Television. [Seattle Times]

Wilson C. Wearn, a former president, chairman and CEO of Multimedia Incorporated, passed away at 87; his company operated more than 100 cable franchises in four states. [AP]



• ONLINE

AOL hired AT&T VP of marketing John Burbank as chief marketing officer [MediaPost] and is preparing to unleash UnCut, its cross-platform (including AIM) user-generated video portal. [Beet.tv]

The FTC opened an antitrust investigation into Google‘s planned $3.1 billion purchase of DoubleClick. [New York Times]

News Corp. will start tracking and monitoring online donations to presidential candidates via MySpace. [Financial Times]

Atlantic Broadband is offering free high-speed Internet service to its South Carolina customers with an immediate family member serving in a war zone. [Aiken Standard, SC]

YouTube is seen as "the new TV" for youth-skewing brands, with Carat North America head David Verklin noting, "You’ve got to fish where the fish are." [WWD]

Joost‘s logo made its Indy 500 debut, with fans invited to sign up for Joost’s beta here.

BusinessWeek looks at the race to offer faster bandwidth speeds.



• PROGRAMMING

A&E‘s Flip This House embroiled in an Atlanta-based scandal. [Kansas City Star]

AMC is developing a Western series with Walter Hill, who directed the network’s hit Broken Trail mini-series with Robert Duvall. [National Ledger, AZ]

ABC launches i-Caught, a six-week user-generated series, on Aug. 6. [Variety] Lost star Dominic Monaghan is negotiating with unidentified U.S. cable networks to host a natural history show. [Hello]

BET‘s original programming push nabbed a business feature in the New York Times; 42 women activists plan to attend tomorrow’s Viacom shareholders’ meeting in New York to protest degrading images in music videos shown on BET and MTV.

CNBC‘s Jim Cramer dissects his cable fame for the cover story in New York magazine, where he is also a columnist. An excerpt from "Cramer vs. Cramer" — "I love doing my show and consider it a success, but compare the numbers with the rest of cable news and you can see that there aren’t really that many people watching. And yet it feels like there are as many stories written about me as there are about a guy like Bill O’Reilly…"

CNN was sued by Venezuela’s government for broadcasting "lies" and allegedly inciting violence against president Hugo Chavez. [Bloomberg]

Comedy Central is developing Gay Robot, an animated version of a live-action pilot from Sony Pictures Television and Adam Sandler that it initially passed on, after the pilot became a hit on MySpace. [Variety]

E! covers the court-ordered auction of Michael Jackson’s memorabilia that starts tomorrow. [New York Post]

Hallmark Channel paid about $13 million to acquire all 264 episodes of Murder, She Wrote. The series, which Hallmark debuts June 3, will run in back-to-back episode blocks on Sundays at 7pm and twice daily (8am and 11pm) during the week. [Variety]

HBO‘s Entourage cast hit Cannes last week for a scene in which Kevin Dillon’s Johnny Drama character walks the red carpet at the premiere of Ocean’s Thirteen. [New York Post]

HSN and Hear Music co-produce a special (airing May 30/31) plugging Paul McCartney’s new album.

NBCU Cable and Music Choice announced a "Music & Movies" VOD/PPV offering for June.

Retirement Living TV will televise its Cable Show town hall on the digital TV transition (featuring NCTA pres/CEO Kyle McSlarrow) today.

SCI FI will air Into the Unknown with George Noory, a late-night special featuring the syndicated radio host, on June 13.

TBS announced an extensive grassroots marketing campaign targeting African American viewers for its June 6th debut of Tyler Perry’s House of Payne sitcom. Turner is streaming all of its original summer series premieres on TBS.com and TNT.tv for up to a month after their on-air debut.



• IN OTHER NEWS

Liberty Media, preparing to assume ownership of DirecTV this fall, made light of News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch’s reference to his soon-to-be-former satellite TV provider as a "turd bird" with t-shirts that said "Turd-bird TV" on the front and "Will trade satellite for stock" on the back, Liberty Media pres/CEO Greg Maffei tells the Denver Post. Maffei says he’s interested in porting DirecTV content onto portable devices: "We’re going to make sure we’re on the leading edge, in terms of where mobility goes." MarketWatch looks at AT&T‘s pending decision to tap either DirecTV or EchoStar as its exclusive satellite TV partner.

The Los Angeles Times weighs AT&T’s U-verse service, now expanding in SoCal: "U-verse customers are telling AT&T that picture quality is generally better than cable and satellite. And they like a few of U-verse’s free features, including faster channel changing than digital TV and the ability to record as many as four shows at once on a rent-free digital video recorder. On the flip side, U-verse can send only one high-definition signal at a time, which means you can’t record one HD show while watching another."

Time Warner Cable execs donned motorcycle leathers and do-rags for a "Harley-themed" evening out during a conference in Boulder, CO, last week. [Rocky Mountain News]

Kansas City Star reviews mobile TV offerings.

Shirley Brady

• Click here for Friday’s 360AM news briefing >>

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