Cable360AM — News briefing for Thursday, June 7 »
Qwest is rebranding its high-speed Internet service to Qwest Broadband instead of Qwest DSL. With the relaunch it’s offering a new email domain, q.com, to its online customers. It’s also the first to partner with Microsoft to offer Windows Live on its revamped broadband portal, switching from MSN starting today in Colorado with other markets to follow this summer, notes the Denver Post. Qwest is touting its Price for Life broadband promotion, which locks in low rates with a two-year contract (akin to Time Warner Cable‘s Price Lock Guarantee) in Santa Fe, NM, where Comcast is raising rates starting July 1, reports the Santa Fe New Mexican.
NCTA and Cable in the Classroom launched a Website yesterday to educate families on Internet safety. PointSmartClickSafe.org offers resources on topics to help parents inform and protect their kids from cyberbullies and online predators, in addition to related online issues such as respecting copyright for online downloads; filtering software; media literacy; and generally making the Web a fun, safe and educational experience for kids and families. Cable operators and programmers can link to the site, which was praised by FCC members and lawmakers.
Time Warner Cable may completely separate from Time Warner Inc. in five years—emphasis on may—according to remarks made by TW chairman and CEO Dick Parsons at a Merrill Lynch U.S. Media conference in London. [Reuters]
DirecTV today opened its national operations hub, a 256,000-square-foot customer service and sales support center in Denver designed to hold more than 1,000 employees. About 400 employees relocated to the Denver Tech Center-based facility today, a spokesperson tells the Rocky Mountain News.
DirecTV also announced its first ever interactive coverage of the U.S. Open golf championship (starting June 14) and that it will air the Championship Gaming Series not only live (a first) but in HD on its original entertainment channel, The 101, starting July 9th. The video gamer to watch, notes this morning’s New York Times: Victor M. De Leon III, who "has been playing video games on the professional circuit for five years now, racking up thousands of dollars in prizes and endorsements at tournaments around the country. He has a national corporate sponsor, a publicist and a Web site" plus a documentary crew trailing him. He’s nine.
Senators Kent Conrad (D-ND) and Byron Dorgan (D-ND) sent a letter to FCC chairman Kevin Martin urging that DirecTV be required to offer local-into-local service in all 210 DMAs by the end of ’08 before the Commission approves a transfer of News Corp.’s DirecTV stake to Liberty. The DBS provider currently provides local-into-local service in 142 of 210 DMAs. "It appears that DirecTV intends to utilize current and future satellite capacity to increase HD service, rather than provide local-into-local coverage in unserved areas," their letter stated, in reference to DirecTV’s vow to offer 100 HD channels by year-end. [CableFAX Daily]
CTAM revealed the winners of its 2007 Rainmaker Awards and TAMI Awards, which will be presented at the CTAM Summit, July 24-25 in Washington, D.C.
The Cable Center announced Insight Communications’ pres/CEO Michael Willner as its new vice-chairman and eight new board members: Cablevision’s John Bickham, Comcast’s David Cohen, Mediacom’s Italia Commisso Weinand, Cequel/Suddenlink’s Jerry Kent, Advance/Newhouse’s Bob Miron, Time Warner Cable’s Peter Stern, Weather Channel’s Debora Wilson and NCTA’s Barbara York.
Pali Research analyst Rich Greenfield dinged Mediacom Communications this morning, saying the company "deserves a substantial valuation discount to its peer group given the weaker demos/clustering of its subscriber base, poor management decision-making (exemplified by their handling of the Sinclair situation), and slower growth prospects over the next several years versus its peer group," citing chairman/CEO Rocco Commisso’s projection of high single-digit growth on the company’s last earnings call. Pali shifted its MCCC rating from sell to neutral and removed its price target.
• CONSUMER ELECTRONICS
The Wall Street Journal looks at cable subscribers’ dilemma—whether to rent or own set-top boxes, with the July 1st CableCARDs deadline looming—and which consumer electronics manufacturers are ready for retail. BusinessWeek tech columnist Stephen Wildstrom also weighs his options as a Comcast customer in a diatribe that begins "I hate my cable box. It’s a high-end Motorola unit with dual tuners…" His dream set-top: "an inexpensive and simple box that lets me watch both cable and Internet TV and play downloaded and DVD movies, something like a more versatile and cheaper version of the $800 TiVo (TIVO) Series3." He also offers a podcast on his quest to be "Unchained from the Cable Box."
The New York Times looks at the impact of the looming digital transition deadline in 2009 on consumers … Plextor’s Mini Digital HDTV Receiver … the HQV Benchmark, a $20 disc that consumers can bring to an electronics store to help test HDTV equipment (details here) … and how consumer electronics makers are becoming more sensitive to women (which doesn’t mean using pretty colors).
A&E‘s Tuesday premiere of Criss Angel Mindfreak‘s 3rd season attracted 1.5 million A18-49 viewers, a 7% increase over last year’s season 2 debut; 1.3 million A25-54, up 12%; and 2.7 million total viewers, up 17% over last year’s figures.
Bravo‘s Tuesday premiere of Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List season 3 averaged 713,000 A18-49 viewers, a 77% increase over last year’s season 2 premiere, and delivered slightly more than 1 million total viewers, a 53% increase.
Bravo‘s Project Runway is headed north, where Project Runway Canada will be hosted by supermodel (and Mrs. David Bowie) Iman.
CBS entertainment president Nina Tassler brought Jericho back to life for seven episodes after fans bombarded her with letters, email messages, YouTube postings … and thousands of pounds of peanuts. She was amused, and impressed, reversing her original statement with a "You win—and no more peanuts" message to fans yesterday.
CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo grilled (kinda) Viacom/CBS chairman Sumner Redstone over the companies’ performance since the split and outlook. Both were in a feisty mood; here’s the transcript. Viacom EVP Carl Folta also refuted the Wall Street Journal‘s claim that CBS beat Viacom for Last.fm—Viacom never got beyond "preliminary discussions" with Last.fm, he says—and dispels WSJ‘s view that the companies should never have parted ways: "To conclude that Viacom is somehow disadvantaged by the activity of CBS completely misrepresents the breadth of Viacom’s business and the success the company has achieved since the separation."
HBO‘s Sunday night farewell to The Sopranos better leave Tony standing, according to 43% of New Jersey residents surveyed in a recent poll; 21% of the Garden Staters want James Gandolfini’s character whacked. [New York Post]
HBO is close to signing a deal with Playtone (Tom Hanks’ production co.) to turn Vincent Bugliosi’s Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy into a miniseries. [Variety]
HBO‘s Sheila Nevins snapped up the rights to Autism: The Musical, a documentary about a real-life High School Musical (with autistic teens) that was a hit at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival. HBO will air the Bunim-Murray Productions’ doc next year after its theatrical release. [Variety]
Showtime announced that Keith Carradine has joined the cast of Dexter, which returns Sept. 30th. He plays an FBI agent in 11 of next season’s 12 episodes, which are now in production.
Sundance Channel‘s Iconoclasts partners, FremantleMedia Enterprises and @radical.media, signed a first-look development deal for future projects. @radical.media is also producing AMC’s upcoming Mad Men series.
Goodmail Systems added Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications and Verizon to its spam- and phishing-buster CertifiedEmail program now in use at AOL and Yahoo.
NBC Universal launches virtual world marketing with a summer concert series in Second Life. Live from the Peacock Room kicks off with a performance by Fuel at 6pm ET today. It will also be streamed at VirtualNBC.
Online video ads are more effective at 30-seconds than 15 sec., even though Web video viewers may say they prefer shorter. A new study from the Online Pubishers Association finds that longer ads provide more "lift" and "brand consideration," spurring improved viewer recall and call to action results.
PC Magazine‘s "Best ISPs in America" claim that Hawaii has the nation’s second-slowest Internet speeds behind Alaska was denounced as "just wrong" by Time Warner Cable’s Oceanic system, whose marketing VP Alan Pollock tells the Honolulu Advertiser: "We’re much faster than Hawaiian Tel. It’s not even close." Hawaiian Tel also disputed the state’s low ranking. PC Mag’s fastest ISPs: Cablevision‘s Optimum Online for cable, Verizon for fiber and Speakeasy for DSL.
Online advertisers are increasingly "conquesting," a marketing technique that places disparaging ads next to competitors on websites. [Wall Street Journal]
In a parental snoop around Facebook, New York Times columnist Michelle Slatalla discovers that more than 50% of Facebookers aren’t in college. [New York Times]
Yahoo! Telemundo is producing a Web series with GE Money that offers financial advice in Spanish.
Apple‘s iPhone has spurred competitors to rush out media-rich cellphones including Samsung‘s UpStage, so-named, quips analyst Avi Greengart, because "they’re clearly trying to upstage the iPhone." [WSJ]
Coca-Cola announced the Sprite Yard, a networking site for teen cellphone users that leverages its Sprite brand to create a virtual mobile community. It launches June 22.
Nielsen announced a new division, Nielsen Wireless, to measure usage of mobile Internet, video and other content. The new unit, headed by Nielsen VP Jeff Herrmann, next month launches Mobile Vector, a tracking service that will use information from Nielsen’s National People Meter TV sample to report on media behavior and audience demographics segmented by wireless carrier. Later this year it will introduce a survey of mobile phone users’ consumption of mobile media content.
The Mobile Marketing Association introduced a global measurement committee to be chaired by Coca-Cola, while the dotMobi consortium supported MMA’s revised mobile advertising guidelines. [MediaPost]
About 40% of 18- to 21-year-olds in the U.S. let their parents or someone else pay their cellphone bills, which the Wall Street Journal attributes to the 42% of households that now have a family cellphone plan, up from 36% in 2005. WSJ looks at what happens "When the Kids Don’t Leave the Digital Nest" and advises its readers (who are likely footing those bills) how to wean their offspring off the family plan.
• IN OTHER NEWS
Comcast is using Scientific Atlanta for its switched digital video test in Cherry Hill, NJ, and multiple vendors in its Denver SDV test, reports Light Reading, citing sources.
Concurrent‘s patent value extraction program will help the company determine if its intellectual property is being infringed. "I think there are certainly folks out there currently operating in manner that would appear to be infringing on the patents," Concurrent EVP Kirk Somers tells ScreenPlays.
Time Warner Cable launched a 24-hour Doppler weather radar channel in Plano, TX, to replace a school district channel at the request of city officials. Time Warner now offers six public education government (PEG) channels, compared with the 19 that Comcast previously offered in the market. [McKinney Courier Gazette]
Qwest EVP Barry Allen is retiring June 29. Robert Tregemba has been promoted from VP of network operations and engineering to EVP of network operations to fill Allen’s role. [Rocky Mountain News]
Vyyo‘s ability to boost cable bandwidth for HDTV puts it in the catbird seat for DOCSIS 3.0, blogs Anthony Arena.