360AM — Morning news briefing for Monday, Mar. 26

• TOP STORIES

National Geographic Channel president Laureen Ong is leaving. NGC co-owner News Corp. has tapped Ong as COO of its STAR TV pay television subsidiary in Asia; she will begin her new Hong Kong-based post within six weeks. David Haslingden, CEO of NGC International, will take over for Ong as CEO of NGC U.S. while maintaining his current NGCI title in a dual role. Steve Schiffman, NGC’s U.S. EVP of marketing, becomes acting GM. [Release]

The Sprint Nextel joint venture with Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox and Advance/Newhouse announced its brand name—Pivot—which links the operators’ mobile phone service with subscribers’ digital home phone, online and digital cable services. Pivot Plus offers all-inclusive voice, text, data and entertainment. Pivot-branded service (which the cable partners have been calling Mobile Access) is in eight cities now—Raleigh, NC; Austin, TX.; Boston; Portland, OR; San Diego; Phoenix; Cincinnati; and Dayton, Ohio—and 40 by year-end. [Release]

WSJ defends Cablevision‘s failed network DVR plan, calling last week’s court decision killing the RS-DVR initiative "nonsense: In a sensible world, a DVR would be a DVR, regardless of where the hard drive happens to be located." Another Cablevision supporter: HDNet‘s Mark Cuban, who blogs: "Those filing the lawsuit to halt the Cablevision DVR made a huge strategic mistake."

The U.S. Senate Commerce Committee holds a hearing tomorrow looking into Major League Baseball‘s deal with DirecTV for its Extra Innings out-of-market games package. A letter to the editor in today’s Chicago Sun-Times voices fans’ frustration at "baseball’s cable shutout." Bob DuPuy, MLB COO Bob DuPuy commented today: "This is not about In Demand or Dish not being able to match the DirecTV offer, it is about their willingness to do so. This was a negotiation at arms length over several months. DirecTV set the market. It is up to the other bidders to meet it.” [AP] Click here for a Q&A with cable’s lead MLB negotiator, In Demand pres/CEO Rob Jacobson.

• COMPETITION

AT&T’s U-verse adds Lifetime, LMN and Lifetime Real Women to its programming line-up. AT&T will also provide three-screen content for the 2007 Masters Tournament: wireless, TV (U-verse) and online at Blue Room.

Barron’s adds EchoStar‘s Charlie Ergen and News Corp.‘s Rupert Murdoch to its list of best CEOs. EchoStar’s Dish Network today announced an On Demand and Pay-Per-View deal with Disney’s Buena Vista subsidiary for titles including Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. [Release]

New York Times looks at wireless spectrum auction and the Alliance for 4G America, a lobbying group whose partners include EchoStar, DirecTV, Yahoo, Intel and Skype. [NYT]

USA Today gives lukewarm rating to DirecTV‘s male-skewing HD marketing spots featuring William Shatner, Jessica Simpson and other celebs. [USAT]

Verizon plans to launch its FiOS1 local TV channel on Mar. 29 in the Washington, D.C. metro. Separately, Verizon offers inferior service to apartment buildings and other multiple dwelling units. [AP]

• WIRELESS

CTIA Wireless kicks off tomorrow in Orlando. Comcast‘s ThePlatform announced a pre-CTIA deal with Helio, a JV between Earthlink and Korea’s SK Telecom, to provide mobile video content including ABC, FOX, MTV and Comedy Central. ThePlatform’s other mobile video affiliates include Amp’d Mobile and Verizon Wireless. [Forbes | Seattle Times]

AT&T Wireless teams up with Napster, adding access to 3 million songs across multiple screens and devices starting Apr. 1. [Release]

A Wall Street Journal special report today looks at "what’s new in wireless," including using cellphones in Asia to pay for gas, groceries and airline tickets; while MobiTV is looking to take its mobile video service to any device, as it’s doing with AT&T’s U-verseToGo initiative.

Separately, BusinessWeek special report crowns "best young tech entrepreneurs" in areas including wireless and the Web. BW also covers "North America’s Cell-Phone Land Grab." Ad Age ponders user-generated mobile content and advertisers.

• PROGRAMMING

Animal Planet launched its second annual Hero of the Year search.

Anime Network heads to WideOpenWest on SVOD. [Release]

Bravo
host James "Inside the Actors’ Studio" Lipton will receive a lifetime achievement Emmy on June 14.

ESPN drops Joe Theismann from Monday Night Football; Ron "Jaws" Jaworski takes over as lead analyst. [New York Times | Release]

GSN‘s Lingo returns for season 6 on Apr. 2. [Release]

The History Channel re-upped Mail Call host R. Lee Ermey in a multi-year contract that includes its websites and sister network, Military History. Mail Call‘s current 8th season, which started Mar. 16, expanded to a full-hour series. THC is co-sponsoring Humanities Advocacy Day, today and tomorrow in Washington, D.C.

Logo backs Here! complaint against the GLAAD Media Awards, which prohibits gay TV nets from competing. Logo will broadcast tonight’s New York GLAAD awards show (on Apr. 21) despite its concerns. [New York Times | Cable360]
 
MTV‘s Apr. 2 season finale of The Hills will feature a live post-show webcast, The Hills After Show, moderated by TRL host Susie Castillo. [Release]

NFL may expand restrictions on its Web video. [Sports Business Journal via PaidContent]

Retirement Living TV signed Prudential as a sponsor. [Release]

Starz’ Bob Greene says 70% of Vongo subscribers don’t have cable or satellite TV service. [Rocky Mountain News]

TCM starts "No Animals Were Harmed" weekly film fest on May 6.

VH1 Rock Honors awards show—featuring Genesis, Heart, Ozzy Osbourne and ZZ Top—will be taped May 12 and televised May 24. MarketWatch interviews VH1 EVP of programming Michael Hirschorn [Video].

• PEOPLE

Cablevision named Patricia Gottesman to EVP digital marketing and commerce, from EVP product management and marketing. Gottesman, #9 on CableWorld‘s latest Most Powerful Women list, is heading up a new unit to expand Cablevision’s TV-based commerce capabilities—from remote ordering to virtual channels touting brands such as American Express, JetBlue, Disney, Sony and GM—across its 3.1 million subscriber base. Reporting to Gottesman as part of the new digital marketing and commerce group: Dermot McCormack, SVP interactive advertising and development; Barry Frey, SVP advanced platform sales; and Ben Tatta, SVP new business development. [Release]

Vyyo Inc. named former Charter Communications CTO Wayne Davis as CEO and hired Jim Chiddix as vice chairman. Chiddix, most recently chairman and CEO of OpenTV, spent 15 years as CTO of Time Warner Cable. Vyyo’s spectrum overlay technology helps operators increase bandwidth. CableWorld contributor Maggie Bellville also serves on Vyyo’s board.

ICTV announced the creation of ActiveMedia Group, which will be headed by Nizar Allibhoy as SVP/GM of the new division. Allibhoy was most recently CEO of ClickStar, the online film distribution company co-founded by actor Morgan Freeman and Intel.

AP profiles Disney‘s Anne Sweeney.

WSJ profiles Facebook founder Mark Zuckerman, who’s partnering with Comcast‘s Ziddio.com on a Web video series from producer R.J. Cutler. Zuckerman, who’s all of 22, doesn’t have a TV "but I do read newspapers. But how I read them is important. I don’t pick up a physical newspaper — I’ll get sent a link."

Crain’s looks at the flood of former cable programming execs (particulary from MTV Networks) to Web video start-ups.

NAMIC‘s Vision Awards, tomorrow in Beverly Hills, will honor Disney Channel talent Raven-Symone and veteran casting director Robi Reed. The NAMIC Vision Awards are billed as "the only entertainment industry event recognizing achievements in multi-ethnic, original cable programming." [Release]

• IN OTHER NEWS

Time Warner will report 1st quarter results on May 2. [Release]

Pappas Telecasting explores sale. [Release]

Onion News Network launches tomorrow. [Release]

The FTC is finalizing a follow-up to its Sept. 2000 report on the marketing to children of violent movies, music and video games. "It will examine the selling practices of a mainstream entertainment industry that in the interim has become increasingly dependent on abductions, maimings, decapitations and other mayhem once kept away from studio slates," writes the New York Times.

USA Today looks at "upfront confusion" stemming from ratings and metrics changes. [USAT]

Microsoft‘s SoapBox on MSN video site, still in Beta, removed unauthorized clips from NBC’s Saturday Night Live after it was announced last week that Microsoft’s is enabling the new Web video portal from NBC Universal and and News Corp. that’s launching this summer [WSJ]. Microsoft is also developing Xbox 360 Elite, which will be able to "connect at the highest speed to to a high-definition TV," blogs San Jose Mercury News tech writer Dean Takahashi. Other features: a 120-gigabyte hard disk drive and IPTV capability.

Lost Remote‘s Cory Bergman today starts a week-long test: no cable TV, all Web TV.

Announcing the winners of the first YouTube Awards; don’t miss these guys.

Nike‘s search beyond Wieden + Kennedy for digital media duties is dubbed "a wake-up call" to Madison Avenue by the Wall Street Journal.

Shirley Brady

• Click here for 360AM news briefing for Friday, Mar. 23 >>

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