Cable360AM — News briefing for Friday, Feb. 8 »

A brief warm break in the weather has members of the Cable 360 news staff anxiously awaiting another call of spring: “Pitchers and catchers report.” Good morning.

WWE is ending its partnership with The CW and the former UPN after 10 years. Near midnight, WWE said the following: “After a successful decade of SmackDown on both UPN and The CW, World Wrestling Entertainment and The CW have agreed to conclude our partnership.  Since The CW’s exclusive negotiation period ran out as of last Thursday, January 31, we have been contacted and have been in negotiations with other networks.  WWE SmackDown will continue to air on The CW until the conclusion of the 2007-08 broadcast season.  We are grateful to Les Moonves, Dawn Ostroff, and their entire organization for bringing WWE SmackDown to millions of viewers for so many years.” 

The press lives for major deals. Accordingly Forbes and BusinessWeek provide their opinions on Microsoft-Yahoo, with Forbes’ former columnist Martin Sosnoff praising Microsoft and wondering about Google’s “spending like a drunken sailor….” Gene Marcial of BusinessWeek says the “troika-like machinations” of Google, Microsoft and Yahoo could produce solid returns for investors if played well. The NY Times wonders whether it’s too late for Yahoo to remain independent.  A Wall St Journal blogger says Yahoo better have a cadre of good lawyers to block Microsoft. [Forbes] [BW] [NYT] [WSJ] (Also see items in Briefly Noted below.]

The feds are concerned about a possible iTunes competitor called Total Music, which apparently is supported by Sony BMG and Universal Music, CNET’s News Blog says, citing unnamed sources in a report by Music Alley, a newsletter. Sony and Universal received letters from the Dept of Justice concerning the $5/month subscription service, which is still on the drawing board. Total Music is the brainchild of Universal CEO Doug Morris, who apparently has spoken with Google, Microsoft, MySpace and Facebook about the project. [CNET]

The plethora of reality shows—some rushed into production because of the writers strike—has resulted in new challenges for producers looking for oddballs to cast in them, The Wall Street Journal says. Still, with strong ratings and low budgets, reality shows won’t be going away soon, it says. [WSJ]

Briefly Noted
The world’s top telecomm equipment manufacturer Alcatel-Lucent SA posted a record quarterly loss. [Bloomberg]

Hearst-Argyle EVP Terry Mackin was named president of Univision’s TV Station Group, effective March 1. The unit numbers 64 Univision and TeleFutura O&Os. Mackin’s most recent gig at H-A was running its digital businesses.

The Association of Cable Communicators said its 4th annual Cable Communications Institute will be held June 1-4, in NYC at Syracuse University’s Lublin House. The graduate-level program is designed for mid to senior level communications execs. [ACC]

Softbank’s chief says he’s talking with Yahoo about how to respond to Microsoft’s bid, according to an AP story carried on CNNMoney.com. [CNNM

A NY Times blogger sees a road filled with regulatory potholes for the Microsoft-Yahoo deal. [NYT]

The Wall St Journal’s Dorothy Rabinowitz says Susan Sarandon and Ralph Fiennes are excellent as Doris Duke and Bernard Lafferty in HBO’s Bernard and Doris (Sat, 8pm).[WSJ] In today’s CableFAX Daily: Christina Norman Leaves MTV to experience life in the real world and the DTV transition begins, at least in DC.

Yesterday’s Update  

Got a tip? Email sgoldstein@accessintel.com and sarenstein@accessintel.com

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