360AM — Morning news briefing for Wednesday, Mar. 21 (Updated: 8pm ET)

The major cable operators that own In DemandComcast, Cox and Time Warner—today agreed to match DirecTV‘s terms in order to offer MLB‘s Extra Innings out-of-market subscription games package for seven years and launch The Baseball Channel in 2009. MLB rejected the offer, primarily because In Demand’s owners won’t carry the channel on basic like DirecTV; they only agreed to offer the channel to the same number of subscribers as DirecTV. Now In Demand’s crying foul. Click here for details.



The push for statewide video franchises and legislation favorable to telcos’ video ambitions—spurred by aggressive lobbying by AT&T and Verizon—is heating up this week. A snapshot:

Florida‘s statewide video bill HB 529, which includes a telco rate freeze, is bound for the House floor today and gets a final vote tomorrow. [AP | St. Petersburg Times] Update: The House approved the bill, which now moves to the Senate. [Florida Today]

Georgia‘s statewide video bill is moving to the Senate. [AP]

Illinois municipalities are "up in arms" about AT&T-backed HB 1500, a video franchise bill before the Illinois House Telecommunications Committee. [Riverside Brookfield Landmark, IL | Rockford Register Star]

Iowa‘s Senate yesterday approved a statewide video franchise bill in a 44-6 vote that sends the bill to the House, where "it will likely get approval." [AP | Des Moines Register]

Missouri’s video franchise bill moves to Governor for approval without Dem-backed rural provision that would charge satellite providers the same 5% franchise fee that cable companies pay to fund technology grants toward rural economic development. [MissouriNet | KC Community News] Thursday update: Gov. Matt Blunt signed the bill into law. [AP]

New York state legislators debated a Dem-proposed cable competition bill today. Verizon, which spent $2.2 million on NY lobbying efforts last year, isn’t pleased with an outlying service provision in the bill. [AP | Poughkeepsie Journal]

Tennessee‘s House Commerce Committee yesterday heard an AT&T-backed video franchise bill; a similar bill introduced last year was rejected by the committee [AP | WTVF]. AT&T and Comcast ads state their positions. [The Tennessean]

Meanwhile, Arkansas‘ Senate yesterday rejected a bill that would allow cities to require telephone companies go back through the process of getting right of way agreements for providing television services. AT&T representatives in the Senate’s Insurance and Commerce committee crushed the bill by Sen. Randy Laverty (D-Jasper). [AP] And Qwest is tabling its statewide video push in Colorado until FCC’s new local franchise rules go into effect.



• ADVERTISING

Preparing for this year’s upfront ad sales negotiations, ABC will unveil a new spin on commercial breaks to media agencies at its annual pre-upfront development meeting, being held today in Burbank, CA. ABC ad sales president Michael Shaw declined to elaborate at the ANA TV Forum yesterday. The New York Times takes note of ABC’s likely direction: the un-commercial-like commercial breaks on CW and VH1. Beth Comstock, NBCU president for integrated media, told the conference about preliminary results from her company’s physioneurological research on brain waves and eye movements to record how viewers watch (and don’t watch) commercials. [New York Times] Ad agency chiefs and ad sales execs including ABC’s Shaw and Turner Entertainment ad sales president David Levy confirmed at the TV Forum that some form of commercial ratings data will be used in this upfront. [MediaWeek]

News Corp. creates Fox One ad sales unit to handle cross-media buys that encompass Fox, FX, National Geographic Channel, TV Guide, MySpace, Fox Mobile, HarperCollins and other properties. Jean Rossi was named president of Fox One while retaining her title as EVP integrated sales at Fox Entertainment Group. [WSJ]

Google‘s new AdSense pitch to advertisers: pay only for results. Examples of its pay-per-actions include a consumer’s online purchase, signing up for a subscription or requesting a quote from a car dealer via a Google-facilitated call to action. [New York Times | Information Week]



• CABLE OPERATORS

Former Maryland state Sen. Thomas Bromwell, facing trial in a federal public corruption case alleging influence-peddling, bragged about his ability to influence powerful businesses including Comcast, which he alleges he "saved…$75 million" by pushing through a bill, according to court documents with transcripts of FBI wiretaps unsealed yesterday. [Baltimore Sun | Baltimore Examiner]

Tenn. Sen. Doug Jackson (D-Dickson) introduced a bill to fine cable operators (including Comcast) and broadcasters up to $50,000 for airing racy ads, such as the Girls Gone Wild commercials that inspired his bill. [AP]

Tucson rejects latest offer from Cox Communications [Tucson Citizen]. Privately held Cox announced 4th quarter results today, but only to investors. [Release]

Comcast‘s digital-only HBO move irks Philly subs ahead of The Sopranos finale. [Philadelphia Inquirer]

Comcast technician found dead, slumped across electrical wires. [The Advocate, CT] AP update: he died of natural causes.



• PROGRAMMING

Adrenaline Nation TV goes live on OEN in Houston. [Release]

Animal Planet introduces Spring Watch USA on Apr. 21. [Release]

Cartoon Network is bringing Aqua Teen Hunger Force to PlayStation 2 this fall. [Release]

CNBC is developing an animated series based on the comic strip, CEO Dad. [Hollywood Reporter]

Discovery Communications promoted Doug Coblens to COO, Discovery Channel and The Science Channel, reporting to president and GM Jane Root; from EVP, legal and business affairs. Lori McFarling was promoted to COO for Animal Planet and Discovery Kids Media, reporting to president and GM Marjorie Kaplan; from SVP, distribution and marketing strategy. 

Fox Reality premieres American Idol Extra tomorrow night. [Release]

FSN Northwest and Comcast to offer Seattle Mariners games in HD. [Release]

Fuse premieres The Whitest Kids U’Know tonight at 11pm.

HSN‘s Shop by Remote service, the first U.S. interactive TV application (available to Cablevision customers and in Time Warner Cable‘s Oceanic system in Hawaii) earns tech partner Tandberg TV a nod. [Release]

Players Network, purveyor of casino tips to Comcast VOD subscribers, is going mobile. [Release]

WWE announced that Orlando will host WrestleMania 24 on Mar. 30, 2008. WM 23 is Apr. 1 in Detroit.



• IN OTHER NEWS

A federal appeals court today upheld an FCC decision exempting VoIP phone companies from most state regulation—good news for VoIP operators like Vonage, which hailed the decision.

Motorola replaced its CFO today and revised its 1st quarter earnings estimate.

WSJ’s tech columnists love Apple TV (now shipping) following 10-day trial; PaidContent recaps their reasons why. Apple may court studios to help sweeten the product, writes Bloomberg.

News Corp. and Hearst back China New Media Fund, which plans day and date releases of movies and videogames to thwart piracy. [New York Post]

Skype is lobbying to get on U.S. cellphones. [ZDNet]

CD sales plunged 20% in the past year but still account for 85% of music sales. [WSJ]

USA Today knocks overlapping NCAA mens’ basketball games on CBS.

WSJ looks at traditional brands that try to be hip online but fail.

YouTube-posted Hillary Clinton attack ad viewed almost 1.5 million times; she’s glad it’s drawing attention away from her second-highest YouTube video. [UPI]

Cable pioneer Gerry Lensfest donates $33 million to his alma mater, Washington and Lee University in Lexington, VA. [Release]

Shirley Brady

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