Cable360AM — News briefing for Wednesday, August 8 »

Sprint Nextel‘s 2nd quarter net income fell a jaw-dropping 95%, to $19 million from $370 million in 2Q06, due to weaker operating earnings and costs related to its WiMAX initiative. CEO Gary Forsee said on this morning’s earnings call he has been disappointed (reports Dow Jones) with the pace of Pivot-branded cellphone rollouts at Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications and Bright House Networks as part of their wireless JV with Sprint. On track to hit 40 cable markets by year-end, Forsee said operators are still working out back office and systems upgrades to handle wireless phone service. Meanwhile, Time Warner Cable launches Pivot on Aug. 23 in its central New York division, reports the Syracuse Post-Standard. TWC’s San Antonio division president John Owen tells the Express News his market’s recent Pivot launch is more about education: "Pivot is an opportunity for us to get into the wireless business, learn and understand the business. It’s going to evolve over time. Right now, though, our focus is still on our core products: voice, video and data."

Cablevision
reported 2nd quarter earnings with net revenue growth of 12% over 2nd quarter ’06 and 13% net revenue growth at its cable operations. More details hereDirecTV, which reports tomorrow, and EchoStar, reporting Friday, may feel the same 2nd quarter sting as their cable competitors, notes Investor’s Business Daily. Highlights from today’s other earnings reports below.

NBC Universal will present more than 3,600 hours from the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, more than the combined total of every Summer Olympics ever televised in the U.S. A big chunk will be live broadband video (a U.S. first) with 2,200 hours of streaming on NBCOlympics.com. NBC, USA, MSNBC and CNBC will share TV coverage with HD telecasts on NBC’s HD affiliates, USA HD and Universal HD. Spanish-language Olympic coverage will be seen on NBC Universal’s Telemundo. Wireless coverage will be announced in the coming months. The 12-hour time difference between Beijing and the Eastern time zone will mean alot of taped events on NBC, although NBCU promises live swimming, gymnastics and beach volleyball in primetime. The announcement comes as General Motors tells the Wall Street Journal it’s ending its corporate sponsorship of the Olympics after Beijing — meaning NBCU’s networks "are losing one of their biggest Olympic advertisers." GM’s deal included being exclusive domestic auto advertiser during Olympics broadcasts across NBCU’s networks.

ESPN next month will relaunch ESPN360.com, the Web video service whose affiliates include Charter Communications, AT&T and Verizon, reports the Wall Street Journal. In a bid to differentiate the portal from ESPN.com and capitalize on CBS’s successful streaming of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament this year, ESPN360 will offer over 2,000 live events in the next year including NBA games and nearly 1,000 college basketball games, 250 college football games and news conferences. ESPN.com will focus on smaller, shorter packages of news, highlights and analysis. With no NFL or first-tier sports, "ESPN executives admit that the six TV networks it produces games for already provide plenty of outlets for second-tier sports, but they view 360 as an incubator for competitions Americans aren’t hip to yet" such as Argentinian polo matches, taking a page from WCSN‘s playbook.

TV Guide signed Mediacom and Insight Communications for the recently announced My TV Guide’s Listings2Go service, an online program guide both operators will integrate into their high-speed online portals.



• EARNINGS

Discovery Communications2nd quarter revenue increased 11% due to an uptick in revenues from ad sales, distribution, education and commerce, reported parent Discovery Holding Company. DCI recorded restructuring charges of $10 million due to layoffs at Discovery Stores.

Hallmark Channel owner Crown Media reported 2nd quarter earnings; the network was in 82.6 million homes on June 30, 13% higher than a year ago; it’s also launching Hallmark Movie Channel HD in the 1st quarter.

Liberty Media reported record 2nd quarter results and will split Liberty Capital into two tracking stocks; details here.

Adult programmer New Frontier Media reported a decrease in fiscal 1st quarter revenue and a new CFO, a day after Playboy announced its U.S. TV business is rebounding.

News Corp.‘s latest quarterly results are previewed by Bloomberg ahead of today’s 4:30pm ET earnings call.

Nexstar Broadcasting, after last week taking itself off the block, this morning reported record 2nd quarter results.



• RATINGS

A&E‘s 2nd installment of The Two Coreys attracted 1.2 million viewers on Sunday and 1.23 million viewers for its 10pm repeat.

ABC Family had basic cable’s top program for A18-34 and A18-49 on Saturday when Fallen: The Journey grew from 1.6 million viewers to 1.8 million viewers in its last half-hour. Sunday’s finale, Fallen: The Destiny, attracted a record number of males 18-49 (605,000) and grew from 2.2 million to 2.4 million viewers.

Hallmark Channel‘s Saturday premiere of acquired movie Stone Cold averaged 2.7 million total viewers, its most-watched August telecast ever.

National Geographic Channel‘s season premiere of Taboo on Sunday was its most-watched series debut ever, with 836,000 total viewers. A 10pm repeat attracted 891,000 viewers.

Style‘s Kimora: Life in the Fast Lane was its most-wached series debut ever, averaging 335,000 total viewers on Sunday and scoring a 0.6 rating for women 18-34 and 18-49.

TNT‘s The Company averaged 2.9 million viewers for its Sunday night premiere.




• PROGRAMMING

Discovery Channel premieres Last One Standing on Oct. 4; the 12-part competition series features American and British athletes competing in tribal sports, from Zulu stick fighting to Mexican foot races. That means it’s not picking up Race to Mars that night, a four-hour docu-series pegged to the 50th anniversary of Sputnik on Oct. 4 that premieres on Discovery Canada on Sept. 23. Discovery Canada’s related series Mars Rising, a six-parter narrated by William Shatner, will air later on the Science Channel in the U.S., reports Playback.

ESPN signed Tennis Hall of Famer Bud Collins to contribute to ESPN2’s coverage of Grand Slam events — the Australian Open, the French Open and Wimbledon — beginning in 2008. He also will report for SportsCenter, ESPNEWS and ESPN Radio from the U.S. Open starting this year. Collins ended his many years with NBC Sports last month.

FX will share Damages, Dirt, The Shield, Rescue Me and The Riches with NBCU and News Corp.’s upcoming, to-be-named video website 30 days after their network premiere. FX Productions, a new unit, will give the network a bigger stake in its original series going forward. [Variety]

Time Warner Cable yesterday launched day-and-date VOD in Dallas. TWC’s North Texas division offered Warner Bros.’ Unaccompanied Minors and TMNT on demand for $3.95 each; Aqua Teen Hunger Force then hits its movies-on-demand menu on Aug. 14, the same day as its DVD release from Warner Home Video.



• WIRELESS

Alltel announced Axcess TV on Demand, a mobile TV service offering more than 200 video clips for $3.99/mo. Content includes NBC fare (The Tonight Show, sports, The Office), Fox Sports, Discovery’s Dirty Jobs and from MTV Networks, MTV’s My Super Sweet 16, VH1’s Best Week Ever and Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

The FCC yesterday approved wireless rules that mandates larger cellular carriers to offer service to smaller wireless companies on terms that are "reasonable and non-discriminatory." The ruling covers roaming agreements for voice services but not wireless data services. [Dow Jones]

The FCC‘s new rules (approved last week) for its upcoming 700 Mhz wireless spectrum auction split along partisan lines with left-leaning consumer groups getting two of the four conditions they wanted, reports the Wall Street Journal. The auction is expected to spur wireless features such as "online banking, stock trading, mobile video, Web search engines and anywhere-anytime music downloading, as well as new versions of email. The new rules also open the door to cellphone use of wireless-Internet services such as eBay Inc.’s Skype," adds the WSJ.
Skype today added video-sharing for Windows users in partnership with Dailymotion and Metacafe.



• ONLINE

BBC Worldwide America struck a rash of digital deals for the original version of The Office, including Netflix.com, Vuze.com and on BBC America on Demand this fall, the free VOD service on Comcast and Time Warner Cable.

USA Network will launch an all-advertising website, Didja.com, "a vast archive of current and classic TV spots, movie trailers and other ‘brand-related content,’ reports Variety. Sponsors will be able to create their own branded pages. Launching early next year, Didja (a spin on "Didja see that?") is USA’s first digital media extension not related to its programming. While more suited to sister net Bravo, it originated at USA and "is the logical next step in the changing dynamic between consumers and advertisers," says USA president Bonnie Hammer. "There’s no doubt that commercials are major drivers of pop culture — all you have to do is check out traffic on any video-sharing site. We want to own that watercooler conversation."



• PEOPLE

Discovery Communications hired Clara Kim as EVP, business affairs; from SVP and general counsel for MTV Networks Entertainment Group’s online businesses and Spike TV.

ReelzChannel hired Robert Ells as director of talent relations; he previously booked talent at E! Entertainment.

Si TV announced that SVP of programming Ed Leon is leaving the company; and tapped Maria Perez-Brown and her production company, Dorado Entertainment, to produce linear, broadband, VOD and mobile programming.

Click here for Tuesday’s 360AM news briefing »

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

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