Cable360AM — News briefing for Thursday, July 19 »

The ratings-challenged National Hockey League will expand its Center Ice live games package to the Web next season in an aggressive online push that potentially freezes out subscribers to its cable TV-based Center Ice package with In Demand. "We need to be nimble in this space," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman tells the Wall Street Journal. The online Center Ice package will retail for $15/game or $169/season to NHL.com and all 30 teams’ websites, with no announced discount (or value add) for subscribers to cable’s Center Ice. Hockey’s Web subscription service will be delivered via IPTV start-up NeuLion, whose backers are Oyster Bay’s two Charles (Dolan, who founded Cablevision; and Wang, who founded Computer Associates). NeuLion, which distributes IPTV channels for Dolan’s New York Rangers and Wang’s New York Islanders hockey teams, said the Center Ice Web package will run commercial-free and include HD video, highlights, pre- and post-game shows, stats and social networking. Ad-supported Web video extras (but no games) from the service will be available online at no charge. The NHL allowed Comcast‘s Versus to stream two live games per night, subject to local blackouts, on Comcast.net and Yahoo during the first two seasons of their deal. The league has also offered its video content beyond TV via YouTube, Joost, Sling Media and Gotuit Media.

Cable networks topped the 2006/07 Primetime Emmy Awards nominations, with the most nods (17) to HBO‘s Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, followed by AMC‘s Broken Trail (16) and HBO‘s The Sopranos (15). AMC, which also received two Primetime Emmy nominations for Hustle, will offer its first original series, Mad Men (premiering tonight at 10pm ET) on iTunes for $1.99 per episode or $24.99 for a season pass, starting tomorrow.

Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone’s daughter Shari, his heir apparent, is planning to separate from the company (including CBS Corp.) and quit the board over an undisclosed fall-out, according to reports this morning. Redstone bought out his son Brent’s share in the family’s media empire following their spat earlier this year. [Wall Street Journal | New York Times | Fortune]

Clearwire and Sprint Nextel announced a deal to jointly build the first nationwide mobile WiMAX network. The companies said in a statement their "spectrum positions will create a depth of wireless broadband spectrum that will enable each company to offer enhanced services and capabilities that are well beyond the capabilities each company expected to be able offer on its own. Clearwire will be able to leverage Sprint’s existing infrastructure, giving Clearwire the ability to sell its services over Sprint’s 3G network and providing Clearwire access to Sprint Nextel retail outlets located in Clearwire markets." Craig McCaw’s Clearwire recently announced an agreement with DirecTV and EchoStar to bundle high-speed wireless broadband with their TV programming, while Sprint has launched wireless phone service in 16 cable markets with Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks and Cox. More in today’s Wall Street Journal and Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

The Big Ten Network announced its on-air broadcast team and Purdue as the first Big Ten School to carry BTN when it launches Aug. 30, but is still at an impasse with Time Warner Cable and Comcast. BTN president Mark Silverman tells the Dayton Daily News the top 2 MSOs are "hypocritical" for insisting on sports tier carriage and balking at BTN’s rate card of $1.10 per subscriber.

EchoStar and its conditional access partner Nagravision sued Viewtech, a California retailer whose free-to-air receivers allegedly allow users to steal Dish Network programming. [SkyReport]

DirecTV and News Corp. siblings BSkyB and Star TV invested in the Championship Gaming Series, marking the first major deal involving Laureen Ong since leaving National Geographic Channel.

Verizon Wireless and Motorola reported 2nd quarter earnings.



• PROGRAMMING

Azteca America‘s Philadelphia affiliate, WZPA-33, launched on DirecTV’s local channel line-up in Philly, southern NJ and surrounding areas.

Comcast tomorrow adds Mexican movie channel Alterna’TV as a 30 hr/mo VOD offering (called Mi Cine) to its CableLatino subscribers.

Fox Soccer Channel announced David Beckham’s Soccer USA, a weekly magazine show covering his every move, and those of his wife (who’s all over NBC tonight).

MSNBC will televise the AFL-CIO’s Democratic Presidential Forum on Aug. 7 with Keith Olbermann hosting.

TBS pulled 3.9 million viewers for the premiere of The Bill Engvall Show Tuesday night, making it the 3rd highest-rated telecast of a sitcom in basic cable history.



• ONLINE

MTV Networks‘ Nickelodeon Kids and Family Group will invest $100 million over the next two years develop casual gaming titles, sites and platforms, including The-NGames.com, a casual gaming site for teen girls, and rebranding NeoPets to NeoStudios.

Scripps Networks acquired Recipezaar.com, a user-generated site featuring more than 230,000 recipes.

Wall Street Journal tech reviewer Walt Mossberg gives a thumbs up to VoIP provider Ooma, which boasts a one-time fee and no subscription charges.



• WIRELESS

Google and Skype joined a coalition that sent FCC chairman Kevin Martin a letter yesterday protesting his proposed rules for the upcoming 700 MHz wireless spectrum auction. [Dow Jones] The FCC also received an appelate brief yesterday challenging its order mandating local governments to process franchise agreements in less than 90 days. The brief was filed by the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors, the National League of Cities, the National Association of Counties, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the Alliance for Communications Democracy and the Alliance for Community Media.

NBC Universal‘s TV networks are going mobile on Alltel Wireless.



• PEOPLE

Aurora Networks hired Kenton Chow as CFO; his previous positions include CFO, Cobalt Networks.

Charter Communications merged its two Wisconsin regions and named Lisa Washa VP and general manager of Charter’s Wisconsin state operations. Karen Broach, who was VP/GM for Charter’s southern Wisconsin region, left the company to join Bright House Networks as president of its Birmingham, AL, market.

CNN promoted Nancy Lane to SVP, editorial, giving her oversight of all newsgathering operations. Her previous title was VP of news.

NBCU promoted John Wallace to president of NBC‘s owner and operated television stations; from EVP, television operations and production services.



• IN OTHER NEWS

Cable operators are poised to rake in billions of dollars from alternative revenue streams including advertising, voice telephony, broadband and SMB/cellular backhaul, according to ABI Research projections released today.

Cablevision‘s Optimum Voice digital telephone now offers residential customers up to four lines of service, at $14.95 each.

Gemstar-TV Guide expanded its licensing agreement with Mitsubishi Digital Electronics America to incorporate TV Guide Daily and other interactive program guides into digital televisions for the U.S. market.

Time Warner Cable launched digital phone service in Adelphia‘s former Buffalo market.

Google launched AdSense for videogames. [Seattle Post-Intelligencer]

Click here for Wednesday’s 360AM news briefing »

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

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