Cable360AM — News briefing for Monday, August 6 »

Adelphia founder John Rigas—who flies Sunday to Rochester, Minn. to begin his 15-year prison term in a facility on Aug. 13, when son Tim starts his 20-year sentence in Elkton, Ohio—sits down with USA Today‘s Leslie Cauley for a long-ranging interview that reiterates his recent hometown press chats with more detail on why he feels they’re entitled to a retrial following VP of finance Jim Brown’s change-in-testimony (he shouldn’t hold his breath, Cauley notes in a sidebar). One tidbit: "Other cable TV chiefs don’t come around much anymore. A notable exception, he says, is Chuck Dolan, chairman of Cablevision, who visited recently." Rigas addressed the family’s "co-borrowing" of $2.3 billion with Adelphia, which he says independent board members and Deloitte & Touche reviewed. Deloitte, Adelphia’s former audit firm, on Friday agreed to pay $167.5 million to Adelphia; the settlement, pending approval by U.S. bankruptcy judge Robert E. Gerber, will be paid into the Adelphia Recovery Trust. The settlement does not resolve the escrow trust’s claims against Adelphia’s former lenders.

New Yorkers’ complaints over the city’s cable TV service providers increased 41% between July 2005 and June 2006 and tripled between July and October of last year. The stats are being bandied as Verizon looks to enter the market and franchise renewal talks are beginning with Time Warner Cable and Cablevision. [New York Post]

The cable/Sprint wireless joint venture bringing Pivot cell phone service to local cable markets is critiqued by Dow Jones for its "slow expansion," losing a strong leader (when John Garcia was moved off the JV) and a lack of unique features (its remote DVR programming was promised two years ago.) Quote: "It’s not a willy-nilly business. The cable guys thought it was so easy. There was massive underestimation of what it really takes to get that done."



• COMPETITION

AT&T today launches U-verse in Oklahoma City, including 26 HD channels and local TV stations and marketing tactics such as its revamped ice cream truck and Tupperware-style parties. Cox Communications spokesperson Christine Martin noted to The Oklahoman Cox’s 25-year commitment to the market, noting: "In the last five years, we’ve invested more than $500 million in this state. Supporting Cox means supporting Oklahoma." AT&T’s U-verse guerrilla marketing tactics are also making hay in Michigan, says Crain’s Detroit. In Milwaukee, the Communications Workers of America union launched a website (getuniontv.org) urging members to "pull the plug" on cable and switch to U-verse. [BizJournals.com]

Verizon‘s FiOS TV expanded its footprint in Long Island, Massachusetts and Delaware.

DirecTV‘s new TiVo HD-DVR can’t handle next month’s 100-HD-channel rollout, a DirecTV spokesman confirms to TVPredictions.com. DirecTV also optimized its customer and dealer websites with Tealeaf technology.



• IN OTHER NEWS

Liberty Media‘s board meets this week to decide on its bid for UK cable operator Virgin Media, reports The Times of London.

Comcast launched Digital Voice phone service in Albuquerque, NM.

The government’s new surveillance law expanding the right to conduct wiretaps without a court order offers limited protection for phone service providers, reports the Wall Street Journal.

San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom will let voters weigh in on free citywide Wi-Fi access on November’s election ballot. [Wall Street Journal]



• PROGRAMMING

Cable’s summer ratings surge noted in Mediaweek, with the broadcast networks’ live-plus-same-day DVR ratings down 9% over last summer.

GLAAD released its first Network Responsibility Index, giving top marks to ABC and lowest to Fox for their depiction of gay characters and issues. The index [click here for a PDF copy] ranked primetime viewing on broadcast from June 1, 2006 to May 31, 2007.

Bravo‘s reality series makes the cover of today’s New York magazine, which knocks the network for hobbling its first break-out reality star—Project Runway 1 winner Jay McCarroll—with a "prize" of $100,000 that he rejected for the "…plus 10% of future earnings to the Weinstein Co." clause that has since been eliminated. Top Chef judge Tom Colicchio comments, "the problem Bravo has is that they lose credibility when Jay doesn’t do anything." The network’s recent hook-up with Pangea Management will help its reality stars manage their post-show careers while giving Bravo a stake in their future endeavors. Network president Lauren Zalaznick comments: "Reality shows and the characters that inhabit them all run a risk of much too short a half-life. And that’s where a lot of these folks can be saved, not to be overly dramatic about it."

Comcast launched a new VOD/broadband channel, rehearsalsTV, in partnership with CenterStaging, a Los Angeles facility that helps musicians prepare for concerts, TV and movie appearances, tours and recording sessions. rehearsalsTV, which features Chris Isaak, Kevin Federline and Michael Buble through next month, will be distributed to other cable operators via Comcast’s Select On Demand service.

Disney Channel‘s $100 million (so far) cash cow, High School Musical, is profiled in Variety.

Fox Sports Net will debut The Alternative With Jay Mohr, a weekly series featuring the comedian’s take on sports. [Hollywood Reporter]

HBO‘s gripping White Light/Black Rain documentary (which premieres tonight at 7:30pm ET/PT) favorably reviewed by the Associated Press and the New York Times. Also, Jay Roach is replacing Sydney Pollack as director on HBO’s upcoming original movie, Recount, notes Variety.

HDNet rescheduled its live coverage of Space Shuttle Endeavour’s launch to 5:30pm ET on Wednesday.

Lifetime‘s original programming this summer garnered an eyebrow-raiser of a kicker in the New Yorker: "Yes, I’m hard on Lifetime, but that’s because its failings call attention not to what it has but to what it lacks: balls." The New Yorker is less harsh about Rupert Murdoch’s acquisition last week of Dow Jones.

MTV Networks is participating in TNS Media Research’s second-by-second set-top box ratings test with Charter Communications in Los Angeles. Parent Viacom noted in its earnings call last week it’s holding back select MTVN inventory for the scatter market, notes TV Week.

New Frontier Media is now the exclusive licensee for distribution of Private Media Group adult programming in the U.S., including VOD, PPV, IPTV and television. Private Media also announced a wireless content deal with Mobile Streams.

The Ski ChannelTennis Channel founder Steve Bellamy’s network launching (in partnership with Time Warner Cable and others) next year—signed a deal with Rage Films that includes its ski film library and future productions. [Hollywood Reporter]

TNT is ordering a pilot from The Closer writer/producers Hunt Baldwin and John Coveny. Truth in Advertising (in an updated twist on AMC’s Mad Men) looks at ad agency staffers. [Hollywood Reporter]

TV Guide Network will rerun the first five seasons of VH1’s Celebrity Fit Club. [Hollywood Reporter]

USA Network was hit by a five-day glitch in Nielsen’s ratings last week that under-reported ratings. [Hollywood Reporter]

NASCAR is looking to lure more Hispanic viewers and fans to the sport. [Brandweek]

Former Nickelodeon president Albie Hecht’s Worldwide Biggies production company raised $9 million in funding from NBC Universal, Hearst and others. [New York Post]



• ONLINE

Al-Jazeera now has "tens of thousands" of online subscribers in the U.S. despite limited distribution as a TV channel, reports AP. Online subscriptions are available on aljazeera.net, and from Jump TV, Jalipo and VDC, while free clips are on YouTube. Its linear TV affiliates in the U.S.: Buckeye Cable in Toledo, Ohio; Burlington Telecom, VT; and OEN’s Fision IPTV service in Houston, TX.

Steve Case’s Lime.com is joining forces to launch Gaia.com this fall, a virtual LOHAS (Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability) community. The move marks the end of Lime (fka Wisdom Television) as a standalone brand, following its transition in January from a TV channel to a hybrid broadband, mobile and VOD network.

Slide—the #1 online widget-maker—today starts "injects advertising into the mix," reports AP.

TBS will launch an MLB broadband channel called TBS Hot Corner. TBS also announced original broadband programming from network stars Bill Engvall and Jim Gaffigan. [Mediaweek]

The Weather Channel launched an enhanced online video player (dubbed Blue Box, in reference to TWC’s logo) featuring Brightcove streaming and DoubleClick-enabled ad features.

YouTube phenom LonelyGirl15 was killed off Friday in the landmark Web series’ "finale" on MySpace. [New York Post]

The New York Times outs Fake Steve Jobs, the witty blog read by Jobs, Bill Gates and other tech execs — he’s Forbes magazine editor Dan Lyons.

The NYT also profiles streaming video efforts targeting niche audiences, including part-Comcast-owned FEARnet, IFC‘s Trapped in the Closet with R. Kelly (which premieres Aug. 13) and Jewish Television Network‘s original series (not to be confused with Jewish Television.)



• TECHNOLOGY

BigBand Networks is demonstrating switched digital video at the CableLabs Summer Conference this week.

Cox tapped NetMotion Wireless for mobile workforce management for 3,500 of its field service technicians.

Mediacom tapped Radcom for VoIP monitoring.



• PEOPLE

Eagle Broadband president and CEO Dave Micek stepped down; a replacement wasn’t named.

Gemstar-TV Guide
hired Ian Wallin VP of national sales for TV Guide Online; from sales manager, MSN.

mun2
hired Sara Kantathavorn as director of talent and artist relations; from senior publicist, Platform P.R.

Starz Entertainment promoted Steve Waldo Belgard to senior director, entertainment publicity; from director.

Turner Broadcasting promoted Loretta Young to SVP and chief human resources officer; from VP.

TV Land hired Scott Gregory as VP of programming; from VP of scheduling, BBC America.

J. Max Robins is out as editor of Broadcasting & Cable as B&C and Multichannel News bulk up their online editorial teams. Details here.

Click here for Friday’s 360AM news briefing »

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

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