Cable360AM — News briefing for Friday, August 10 »

NBC Universal is looking at acquiring Oxygen, says the Hollywood Reporter. The companies’ talks began in June, with indie Oxygen (whose backers include founder/CEO Geraldine Laybourne, Paul Allen and Oprah Winfrey) hoping for "BET money" akin to the the $3 billion that Viacom paid Bob Johnson in 2000. Oxygen fits with NBCU’s female-skewing properties: NBC’s Today, Bravo—whose president, Lauren Zalaznick, may add Oxygen oversight if a deal is done—and its iVillage website. NBCU may settle for a stake in the channel, as it did with A&E and Sundance Channel.

Discovery Channel‘s cycling team (co-owned with Lance Armstrong) is disbanding. Last month’s scandal-ridden Tour de France sealed the fate of Discovery’s $50 million investment (which was announced in Jan. 2005) in the former USPS team. [Los Angeles Times]

EchoStar‘s 2nd quarter profit soared 33%, revenues rose 12% and net income increased 55% (to $224 million) over 2nd quarter ’05. It ended the quarter with 13.6 million Dish Network subscribers (up 9%) — now making it the 3rd biggest pay TV provider in the U.S. Dish signed up 170,000 net new subscribers in the quarter, after 13% quarterly churn, while average monthly revenue per subscriber increased 5% to $66.06. EchoStar also prevailed in a patent suit yesterday, when a Texas judge denied Forgent‘s motion for a retrial.

Insight Communications‘ extended auction, which closed its bidding process Wednesday, sparked a stand-off (reports the Wall Street Journal) between Insight owner the Carlyle Group and Morgan Stanley, which withdrew its financing package offer of 9.25 times annual cash flow. Insight, estimated at more than $2 billion, may go to Time Warner ("or possibly Comcast") as a nonprivate-equity bidder not subject to market whims. Time Warner may hold off on cable acquisitions due to volatile debt financing markets, comments Bloomberg. UK cable operator Virgin Media (eyed by Liberty Media and, reportedly, Comcast) table its sale process, notes CNBC, until the credit markets stabilize.

Comcast president and CEO Brian Roberts tells AP that deploying DOCSIS 3.0 next year should help in its battle with telcos and the company is still deciding whether to bid (with partners) in the FCC’s January auction of 750 Mhz wireless spectrum. Roberts also touts the company’s expanding Web empire including Fancast.com entertainment portal, now in beta, along with Ziddio.com, FearNet.com and April’s Fandango.com acquisition. 2007 is a banner year for Comcast, he adds: "We’re the second-largest broadband company in the U.S. and we will be the fourth-largest phone company by the end of the year and we’ve only been in that business for two and a half years."

HDNet owner Mark Cuban is pushing up day-and-date windows by premiering director Brian De Palma’s upcoming Iraq war movie, Redacted, on VOD 2-3 weeks ahead of its Nov. 2 theatrical premiere. Cuban is offering Redacted on Ultra HD Video on Demand, a new HDVOD service he’s pitching to DirecTV, Time Warner Cable, Charter Communications, Verizon and other MSOs as a $12.95-$19.95/title "snob-appeal add-on to Cuban-financed and -distributed films" that already premiere on a day-and-date basis on HDNet Movies. The advance window would also apply to non-HD subscribers, reports Variety.



• PROGRAMMING

Comedy Central kicks off its first pro-social public affairs campaign today: Address the Mess, which promotes environmental awareness. [Hollywood Reporter]

Discovery Familia, Discovery Communications’ international Spanish-language channel, launched in the U.S. yesterday on DirecTV.

Disney Channel‘s High School Musical 2 starts a week early sneak peek today on Verizon‘s FiOS TV and Cablevision‘s Disney on Demand channel.

DIY Network premieres Blog Cabin on Tuesday, a TV offshoot of its Blog Cabin interactive Web series.

HBO‘s season finale of John From Cincinnati on Sunday night will be the series finale, according to Web buzz like this. HBO also greenlit True Blood, a vampire series from Six Feet Under creator Alan Ball, reports Variety. And Mr. Big is in: Chris Noth has signed up for Sex and the City: The Movie.

HDNet premieres its next Dan Rather investigative report, The Trouble with Touch Screens, on Tuesday; the special looks at electronic voting problems.

IFC licensed North American rights to Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten; it will premiere the documentary on the late Clash frontman on a same-day VOD and theatrical basis on Nov. 2. [Variety]

Logo‘s landmark presidential candidates debate last night on gay issues (which grilled Dem candidates except for Joe Biden and Chris Dodd, who had scheduling conflicts) saw no consumer backlash and no advertiser pull-out, reports Logo-owned 365gay.com. MTV Networks chair Judy McGrath commented: "I was humbled by it, exhilarated.  It was too short. I wanted them to talk all day. This was a great moment in the history of civil rights."

SCI FI tonight premieres original series Flash Gordon, an update on the speedy superhero, at 9/8c.

TNT series-in-development Truth in Advertising will incorporate commercials within the show that will be paid for by advertisers. [Variety]

TV One inked the second ad sales deal on the eBay-enabled online media marketplace, following Oxygen‘s inaugural deal last month. TV One cut a six-figure scatter market deal with Home Depot brokered by Initiative, writes MediaPost.

WWE‘s Monday Night RAW on USA bounced back with 5.27 million viewers this week. USA’s ratings were hit by a Nielsen malfunction last week.



• ONLINE

Court TV‘s The Smoking Gun has launched two Web spin-offs: TSG TV, a video site, and WMOB, featuring audio of wiretaps.

HBO‘s digital media incubator, HBOlab, isn’t dead despite losing its top management and axing ThisJustIn.com. HBOlab productions—which can be viewed at RunawayBox.com and on MySpace and YouTube—will fuel its linear TV channel, broadband and mobile content needs. [Hollywood Reporter]

JumpTV announced 2nd quarter results and acquired Cycling.tv.

NBCU‘s DotComedy tapped start-up Hiro Media for ad-supported downloads.

Veoh filed an action in Federal court to reinforce its rights as a copyright compliant company under the safe harbor provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act — in a pre-emptive strike against a possible suit by Universal Music Group, which is looking to sue Veoh and today removed DRM copy protection from its music downloads in a test including Rhapsody and Best Buy. The New York Times has more (its Bits blog says NBC‘s The Office is still illegally posted on Veoh).

The Wall Street Journal looks at startup cable networks that are giving up on linear TV brands and doubling down online, focusing on Black Family Channel while mentioning Lime, the Horror Channel, the Employment and Career Channel and HorseTV.

YouTube today launches a channel for the International Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Its buzz clip of the week—this video of animals battling in Kruger National Park in South Africa—has hit 10.6 million views (and counting). NGC Wild also features the clip.



• PEOPLE

A&E Networks‘ VP of nonfiction and alternative programming, Didi O’Hearn, joined UK-based Darlow Smithson Productions as VP of U.S. productions.

Adelphia founder John Rigas and son Tim have a final weekend of freedom before they report to their respective prisons (in different states) to begin their sentences Monday; the Denver Post doesn’t have much sympathy.

Comcast technician Rick Kraft was one of the first to call 911 (and stayed on the scene to help) at last week’s bridge collapse in Minneapolis, notes Broadband Reports.

Google hired Philippe Dauman, Jr., whose Viacom CEO father is suing Google’s YouTube. [Wall Street Journal]

Lifetime hired Sandy Varo as VP of reality programming; from director of alternative series for CBS.

World of Wonder hired Fred Paccone COO, from SVP of finance at Paramount Pictures’ Big Ticket Television; and Tom Campbell as head of development, from the same role at Evolution Film & Tape.




• IN OTHER NEWS


Comcast is being accused of turning its back on first responders in Michigan, where it has scaled back on free cable service to police and fire stations.

Time Warner Cable nabbed a Cincinnati cable thief who took his job seriously, taking 2-3 installs a day, responding to customer service calls, and generally being prompt and skilled. He still dreams of one day working for TWC as a legal cable installer and even had legal TWC service at home.

The owner of the fictional Satriale’s Pork Store in The Sopranos is selling the shopfront’s white stones to make way for a condo called The Soprano. [AP]

A stage production of Discovery/BBC 1999 special Walking With Dinosaurs is coming to the U.S. [WSJ.com]

Click here for Thursday’s 360AM news briefing »

Got a tip? Contact Shirley Brady at sbrady@accessintel.com

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