Cable360AM — News briefing for Tuesday, Sept. 25 »

Always one to zig while others zag, EchoStar chairman and CEO Charlie Ergen is buying place-shifting video start-up Sling Media and exploring splitting his company in two by spinning off Dish Network into a publicly traded company and his other tech-related assets into a separate unit. More details here.

In other deal-making, Microsoft is in talks to take a stake in Facebook, according to today’s Wall Street Journal and New York Times.

Comcast is beefing up its HD offerings to better compete with DirecTV and Dish:
• Besides touting its Hi-Def High site, Comcast is running a high-def sneak peek at Microsoft‘s Halo 3 video game release today on its HD VOD platform, reports TV Predictions‘ Phil Swann. (Discovery Channel is also running a Halo 3 contest here.)
• Comcast Philadelphia today adds four HD channels — high-def feeds from National Geographic Channel, Food Network, HGTV and A&E — plus TBS HD next week.
• Comcast Delaware yesterday turned off its free HD channels. Customers must upgrade to expanded basic or higher to receive Comcast SportsNet HD, TNT HD, ESPN HD, ESPN2HD, Versus/Golf Channel HD, Universal HD, MTV’s MHD, Discovery’s HD Theater and Mojo HD. The move affects 1% of Comcast’s Philly-area subscribers, a spokesman tells the Delaware News Journal.
CNN HD and USA HD will also be added in Houston and other Comcast markets, Swann notes.

Comcast is being fined $4,000 by the FCC for another type of video offering. Its CN8 regional news network ran a video news release as a news story in 20 markets, without identifying the Nelson’s Rescue Sleep segment as a paid promotional video. Free Press comments, "We’re pleased to see the FCC is finally waking up to the issue of fake news. But the fine levied against Comcast is just the tip of the tip of the iceberg." The Hollywood Reporter has more.

Comcast was also praised at a NYC Advertising Week event yesterday for stepping up its anti-piracy efforts by NBC Universal digital head George Kliavkoff (who didn’t elaborate). Kliavkoff also defended NBCU’s pending video joint venture with News Corp. [Silicon Alley Insider | PaidContent]

Verizon‘s FiOS TV expanded its NY footprint, adding seven communities in Westchester County, Rockland County and Long Island.

Americans will spend more than a third of their TV viewing (up to 2 hours) on VOD by 2012, according to Pike & Fischer’s latest projections.

With National Hispanic Heritage Month underway, Nielsen estimates Hispanic consumers’ buying power at nearly $3 trillion annually; they’re also heavy phone-users (95% more likely to spend $100 on long distance and 18% more likely to ring up cell phone bills of $150+ in a month) but score lower on viewing per TV households than the national average. More details here.

Nielsen also opened its Hey! Nielsen buzz-tracking social network to the public, with a Spanish-language version in the works.

Amazon today launches Amazon MP3, its digital music store offering DRM-free music downloads.

MobiTV demonstrates its three-screen (mobile, PC and set-top box) capability over WiMAX, today in Chicago.

Cox Communications‘ parent Cox Enterprises launched a corporate green initiative, Cox Conserves.

Canadian cable operator Shaw Communications blasted the CRTC’s federal regulators for halting USA Network at the border.

Former Viacom pres/CEO Tom Freston has joined DreamWorks‘ board, which recently lost Charter Communications chairman Paul Allen as a director. Besides DreamWorks co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg, Freston is also advising another former Disney honcho by investing in Michael Eisner’s Veoh Networks.

The Denver Post profiles Invidi Technologies CEO David Downey, whose previous company, Across Media Networks, was bankrupted by Adelphia. The former Charter Communications exec has been somewhat vindicated by finally collecting on a sliver of monies owed, to the tune of $6.38 million in Time Warner stock.

Catching up? Don’t miss yesterday’s Cable360AM briefing.

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The industry has long provided significant financial support to the U.S. Adaptive Ski and Snowboard Teams through Adaptive Spirit and takes a lot of pride in the athletes’ success.

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