360AM — Morning news briefing from The Cable Show in Las Vegas for Tuesday, May 8.
As promised [Reuters], Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts today dazzled The Cable Show attendees by demonstrating DOCSIS 3.0 download speeds of 150 Mbps, about 25X faster than the average high-speed Internet connection. ARRIS chairman and CEO Robert Stanzione assisted in wowing the audience with the ultra-fast wideband demo, downloading a 30-second, 300-megabyte TV commercial in a few seconds—while a standard modem took about 16 minutes to do the same. Even more impressive, the snazzy new modem digested a 32-volume Encyclopaedia Britannica and Merriam-Webster’s visual dictionary in less than four minutes, a task that would take a standard modem 3 hours and 12 minutes to download. "If you look at what just happened, 55 million words, 100,000 articles, more than 22,000 pictures, maps and more than 400 video clips—the same download on dial-up would have taken two weeks," Roberts commented. The price of modems to support the next generation channel bonding technology is "not that dissimilar to modems today," Roberts told AP, adding the techology could be available "within less than a couple years."
NCTA pres/CEO Kyle McSlarrow swatted back at FCC chairman Kevin Martin’s comments yesterday at the Cable Show—specifically, Martin’s support of a la carte and digital must carry. McSlarrow slammed the FCC’s (meaning Martin’s) a la carte campaign as "government-enforced unbundling" and derided digital must carry as government-enforced "bundling of programming." McSlarrow threw Martin’s own words on Monday back at him, saying: "You can’t have it both ways." The panelists backed McSlarrow’s views. News Corp. pres/CEO Peter Chernin called a la carte "government intrusion at its worst" while Time Warner Inc. chairman and CEO Dick Parsons chided regulators for bowing to pressures from "very vocal minority groups that are distorting the conversation."
Parsons didn’t hang around for the post-session press conference—he was too busy dealing with Time Warner’s latest crisis, with HBO chairman and CEO Chris Albrecht stepping down today to enter rehab while COO Bill Nelson assumes temporary control of the network. More details here. Earlier, Parsons told Bloomberg he’s shopping for acquisitions to bolster AOL. "Don’t be surprised, in the next couple of weeks, if you see us continuing to do things," he noted.
Disney will launch free, ad-supported VOD versions of ABC and ESPN on Cox Communications—with the catch that fast-forwarding (meaning no ad-skipping) will be disabled, reports the Wall Street Journal. ABC series such as Grey’s Anatomy and Ugly Betty will be available 12 hours after their on-air debut while ESPN will offer a package of college football games to Cox VOD customers. Cox will receive one :15 second spot per episode to pitch its own products. The other VOD spots will be a mix of national ads sold by Disney-ABC Television Group and local ads sold by ABC’s local affiliates. The deal, which includes testing dynamic ad insertion in VOD (so expired ads can be replaced post-broadcast) based on zip codes and geo-targeting, will launch in a test market of Orange County, CA, where Cox has about 250,000 subscribers. "Advertising is critical to the financial health of our business and this agreement marks the first time one of our cable-operator partners is acknowledging that," comments Anne Sweeney, president of the Disney-ABC Television Group, to the WSJ.
Disney reported quarterly earnings, posting revenue of $8.07 billion for the three months ended Mar. 31. [Release] Analysts anticipate the company would post revenue of $8.1 billion. [WSJ | Bloomberg | BusinessWeek] Also reporting quarterly earnings today: Cisco [Release] and OpenTV [Release].
Cox Communications is going green—at least in Arizona, where it’s replacing its fleet of trucks with fuel-efficient Honda Fit sedans; it’s also "incrementally replacing" all small and midsize vehicles with gas-electric hybrid models and adding GPS to eliminate unnecessary driving. The company’s state-wide Green Initiative includes adopting solar power at its buildings and adding energy-efficient equipment and lighting. [Arizona Republic]
NBCU and News Corp. announced CNET Networks as a distributor for Web content from its working-titled NewSite Web video portal launching Sept. 1. Previously announced affiliates include Comcast, Yahoo, MSN, AOL and MySpace. [Release] NBCU this morning also announced new standards for online video that will take effect in July: pre-roll video ads in shortform content will not exceed :15 seconds, although it will continue to accept :30 second-plus ads for longform content. It’s also working with rich media partners—including Unicast, Eyewonder, Pointroll and Eyeblaster—to enhance its online ads with in-stream gaming, branding and other features.
John Malone’s Liberty Media reported 1st quarter earnings today.
Scarborough Research released an analysis of the political affiliation of cable TV viewers. [Release]
40% of 3-month-olds are exposed to TV on a regular basis, despite recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatrics to keep babies TV-free until age 2. By that point, 90% of infants are watching TV regularly, according to new research from the University of Washngton’s School of Public Health. Average daily viewing time is 1 hr/day for babies under 12 months and more than 90 minutes daily for kids 2+. 21% of parents admit to treating television as an electronic babysitter. [Globe & Mail | Salt Lake Tribune]
BigBand Networks announces switched video analysis tool. [Release]
HughesNet lowered its satellite Internet pricing to $299.98 through June 30. [Release]
Family-friendly, decency-defending FCC Commissioner Kevin Martin might approve of this technology being showcased at the Cable Show: TV Guardian, which filters out profanity by scanning closed captioning for blacklisted words. An example, according to its website: "if a character on TV shouts, ‘Get the f—- out of here!,’ that phrase is automatically muted and a replacement sentence (‘Get out of here!’) is displayed in closed-captioning" and heard by the viewer. [Release]
Speaking of closed captioning: HDTV wreaks havoc on closed captions, with some HD versions of existing TV networks reportedly claiming the FCC’s four-year exemption to new networks to provide 100% closed captioning. NBCU’s Universal HD will add closed captioning by year-end, but has raised the ire of some deaf activists for not being consistent with sister network USA, which shares programming with the high-def service but not its closed captions. [Sacramento Bee]
TNT, HBO and NBC are affected by federal equal-time rules if actor and former Tennessee senator Fred D. Thompson decides to join the Republican presidential race. He has a recurring role as District Attorney Arthur Branch on NBC’s Law & Order, and if he becomes GOP candidate #11 NBC will have to air episodes without Thompson—but rules are unclear whether TNT, which plays L&O in heavy rotation, is affected as a cable network. "It’s a gray area," Kathleen Kirby, a communications attorney with Wiley Rein in Washington, tells the Los Angeles Times. HBO has decided to proceed with its May 27 premiere of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, an original movie in which Thompson has a small role as President Ulysses S. Grant.
A&E HD and The History Channel HD, AETN’s first simulcast HD networks, will launch exclusively on DirecTV in September, with other distributors to follow. [Release]
CNET Networks also signed a deal (see above) with Web video syndicator Broadband Enterprises for video content.
ESPN2 televises the first round of the MLB Draft on June 7, marking the first time it will be televised.
here! Networks announced a public affairs initiative, "Cause Starts here!" [Release]
FX moves Rescue Me to Wednesday nights when it returns on June 13 and set a July 24 premiere for Damages, its new legal drama starring Glenn Close. Comedy series It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia returns in Sept., while Nip/Tuck and 30 Days return in the 4th quarter. The Shield, Dirt and The Riches return in the first half of ’08.
Headline News launches News to Me, billed as the first cable news program featuring user-generated video, on May 19. [Release]
ICTV announced ActiveVideo programming partners including CNN, Fox Reality Channel, Reuters, AccuWeather and HSN to produce interactive Web-content-on-TV channels. [Release] Grande Communications signed on to launch its mosaic application showing 5 channels at a time. [Release]
Nickelodeon looks at kids with parents in jail in Nick News with Linda Ellerbee: Kids of Cons on May 20. [Release]
Shop Latino TV tapped Intelsat for North American cable distribution. [Release]
Sorpresa is launching a second satellite feed for Mountain and Pacific timezone viewers. [Release]
Starz promoted Bill Clark to president of Starz Home Entertainment, from EVP/GM. The pay-programmer also announced Starz Rewards, a CSR incentive program [Release].
TLC‘s Big Medicine, a 13-part series on obesity, starts May 28. [Release]
USA Network is spending more than $20 million on marketing its mini-series, The Starter Wife, which premieres May 31. Besides a heavy media buy, USA signed Pond’s (which is sponsoring the series’ single-commercial premiere) to create related contests that will be plugged in Costco, Wal-Mart and other retailers; NBCU cousin iVillage will offer a Web site featuring clips of the series, blogs and more. [Variety]
WWE is running a contest on Comcast‘s Ziddio.com user-generated video portal this summer. "Are You WWE’s Biggest Fan" solicits amateur video responses from May 18-July 31; the finalists get a free trip to New York for WWE’s SummerSlam PPV event and judging in late August. Besides Comcast, Cablevision, Charter, Cox and Time Warner Cable are participating. [Release]