360AM — Morning news briefing for Monday, Mar. 5

Time Warner Cable today launched Mobile Access, its wireless phone service with Sprint, in Greater Cincinnati. This is the product’s third market following Raleigh, NC, and Austin, TX [Cincinnati Enquirer article & sidebar]. Its 15Mbps/1Mbps premium high-speed Online access service just launched in Albany, NY [Broadband Reports].

The FCC formally released rules based on chairman Kevin Martin’s proposed local video franchise overhaul approved at its open meeting on Dec. 20. The Commission’s "new rules to ensure reasonable franchising process for new video market entrants" will make it easier for telcos and others to compete with cable by limiting the powers of local franchise authorities with a 90-day time-limit on franchise decisions. [WSJ | Verizon response | Consumers for Cable Choice | Denver Business Journal | Cable360]

USDTV is folding after four years of trying to provide an alternative to cable and satellite TV service providers. The company, the first over-the-air terrestrial digital subscription TV service, blamed financial difficulties. It filed for bankruptcy last summer and was acquired by NexGen Telecom in September. Its closure affects subscribers in Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Dallas-Fort Worth and Albuquerque, NM. [Dallas Business Journal | New Mexico Business Weekly | B&C backgrounder on bankruptcy]

V-me, the commercial-free Spanish language broadcaster, went live today. First announced in 2005 as Viva TV, V-me launches in 18 markets (including New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago and Houston) reaching roughly half of the 28 million Latino households in the U.S. [Release | Orlando Sentinel | NorthJersey.com] Scripps Networks is providing a one-hour weekday block of Food Network-branded programming in Spanish to V-me. The licensing deal includes two original shows plus Spanish-language versions of Food’s hit series with Alton Brown, Rachael Ray, Gordon Elliott and Giada De Laurentiis. Other Scripps Networks content may be added to V-me post-launch. [Release]

• COMPETITION

DirecTV‘s proposed Extra Innings exclusive out-of-market games package with MLB angers baseball fans while FCC reviews the proposal. In Demand president Rob Jacobsen tells the New York Times its cable operator owners (Comcast, Time Warner, Cox and Advance/Newhouse) offered MLB a non-exclusive deal with "better overall terms than the DirecTV offer." MLB wants to launch the Baseball Channel in 2009 as part of any Extra Innings deal. [Wall Street Journal | New York Times]

Verizon steps up lobbying for statewide franchising in Mass. [MetroWest Daily News] while consumer groups react to California PUC’s statewide-franchise rules approved last week [IndyMedia].

San Francisco’s Bay Area favors DSL (55%) to cable modems (29%), with 82% of area residents polled by the Bay Area Council favoring a region-wide wireless broadband network. Comcast spokesman Andrew Johnson tells the San Francisco Chronicle the survey show the lingering impact of previous cable operator’s AT&T’s lousy service. [Release | The San Francisco Chronicle]

Porchlight Communications eyes Colorado Springs. [KRDO]

VOD is touted in the battle for Baltimore viewers, with Verizon’s FiOS and Comcast each touting their On Demand programming. Comcast’s unique local VOD content includes scholarships, fugitives and troop greetings. [Baltimore Sun]

AT&T’s U-verse will include ION Media Networks programming. [Release]

• VENDORS

CableLabs‘ Winter conference kicks off tomorrow in Denver, with technology vendors such as BigBand, Cedar Point, Broadcom, Pace, ICTV, Empirix, STMicroelectronics, and Terayon demonstrating their wares. CableLabs is developing specifications to enable cable set-top boxes to receive digital off-air broadcast signals [Release]. It’s holding a pre-conference press briefing today [Release].

• PROGRAMMING

Cartoon Network premieres a new Land Before Time series today [Animation Insider]. CN and Junior League fight childhood obesity with Camp Lazlo PSA campaign [Release].

CN8 goes inside Cuba, starting Mar. 12. [Release]


Comedy Central is releasing the first HD episode of South Park in a two-week promotion to Xbox Live users. The episode, "Good Times With Weapons," is being packaged as a free DVD with Xbox 360 game console purchases or HD DVD Drive purchases from Mar. 20-Apr. 3. South Park‘s 11th season debuts Mar. 11. [Release]

As Discovery Channel waits for last night’s Nielsen ratings data on its Lost Tomb of Jesus special (and Ted Koppel’s follow-up panel), Discovery Communications president/CEO David Zaslav says original programming is the key to the channel’s success. [New York Post | Los Angeles Times]

EuroNews eyes U.S. beyond Cablevision. [IHT]

Fox Reality Channel will launch on Time Warner Cable as part of a deal that moves FX from channel 54 to 37 in TW’s New York City/NJ market. Citing research, Fox Cable president of affliliate sales and marketing Lindsay Gardner has been pushing to have FX moved into "neighborhoods" or clusters (such as Spike, Bravo, USA) within channel line-ups that are more sympatico with the edgy channel. [Variety]

GAC partners with Academy of Country Music for nine-week series starting Mar. 12. [Release]

GSN‘s first National Vocabulary Championship declared a winner today in New York: 18-year old Robert Marsland of Madison, WI. The finale will air on GSN on Apr. 15. [Release]

HorseRacing TV owner Magna Entertainment sold a 50% stake in HRTV to fellow racetrack owner Churchill Downs [Release | BloodHorse | CP]. Magna last week hired former EchoStar president/COO Michael Neuman as CEO [Release].

Oxygen upped Mary Murano to president of distribution.

Playboy TV cuts staff as company struggles to regain PPV revenues in VOD world. [Variety | FishbowlLA]

Rainbow National Services—Cablevision’s subsidiary including AMC, WE, fuse and IFC about which CFO Mike Huseby had no comment on its earnings call last week—will host a conference call on Thursday, Mar. 8. [Release]

Scripps Networks signed a distribution deal with the National Rural Telecommunications Co-op. NRTC’s rural telco members will get Food Network, HGTV, Fine Living, GAC and DIY Network plus the HD channels for Food Network and HGTV. DIY just signed a deal to become the cable home to PBS series This Old House, The New Yankee Workshop and Bob Vila’s Home Again.

Sí TV expands its cable distribution with a deal for Insight Communications, which follows recent cable launches in Time Warner‘s Dallas and El Paso, TX, markets and Comcast Portland, OR.

Starz Entertainment will launch an original block of comedy programming for 10 consecutive weeks starting Apr. 18. The Starz Comedy Hour will include Martin Lawrence’s 1st Amendment Stand-Up, Head Case and The Bronx Bunny Show. [Release]

The America Channel signed a deal with the Northeast Conference that includes broadcast rights for NEC sports incuding basketball, football, soccer and tennis. [Release]

TV5Monde expanded its availability in Time Warner Cable’s Maine footprint.

The Weather Channel introduced interactive street-level maps on weather.com with Microsoft. [Release]

• IN OTHER NEWS

The Supreme Court rejected AT&T‘s appeal and will allow a class action lawsuit against the company to proceed. The suit pertains to alleged securities fraud regarding the exchange of shares following AT&T’s acquisition of the MediaOne cable company in 2000. [AP]

Cox Communications and Belo signed a national retransmission consent agreement to offer Belo’s local broadcast stations’ HD and SD channels in New Orleans; Hampton Roads and Norfolk, VA; Tucson, AZ; and Twin Falls, Idaho. The agreement covers 1.4 million Cox subscribers and includes locally-produced VOD content and three regional news networks: Arizona NewsChannel in Phoenix, Local News on Cable in Hampton/Norfolk; and NewsWatch on Channel 15 in New Orleans. [Release]

FCC chairman Kevin Martin goes back to UNC-Chapel Hill, his alma mater. [WRAL | News 14 Carolina]

Cablevision investors want Time Warner Cable or Comcast to acquire the company, but the Dolan family, as controlling shareholders, would prefer to take the company private. [WSJ]

Video game console penetration increased 18% in the past 2 years (to 41.1% of TV households in Q4) says Nielsen. [Release]

TV networks want to be Big Marketer on Campus. [WSJ]

Lisa Ling discusses her National Geographic Channel and Oxygen docs. [Los Angeles Times]

Marketwatch looks at Fox News Channel/Fox Business Channel‘s Neil Cavuto [Marketwatch]

TiVo renewed its advertising deal with the Interpublic group of companies, which includes Initiative, Magna Global and Universal McCann. [Release]

Rupert Murdoch and Richard Branson’s UK TV war leaves 3.3 million British viewers in the lurch after BSkyB pulled its channels (including FOX) last week from Branson’s Virgin Media cable company. [Release | New York Times]

Keith Olbermann will interview Valerie Plame Wilson—but not on MSNBC. [Release]

Hearst taps Maven for broadband TV channels related to its magazines. [Release]

BBC and IBM signed a digital technology deal. First up: adding image/video search capabilities to kids’ programming content online. [Release]

Canada’s Fight Network signs U.S. distribution deal with America One. [Release]

Wal-mart rolls out HD digital radio. [Release]

Voice America Women’s Network, a radio network from GreenStone Media (whose backers include Gloria Steinem, Jane Fonda and former FCC commissioner Susan Ness) and Modavox Inc., will launch this month. [Release]

Shirley Brady

• Click here for 360AM news briefing for Friday, Mar. 2 >>

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Obituary

Charter engineer Ron Wolfe passed away Nov 25 after a month-long battle with COVID-19, according to his obituary. Wolfe was senior director of engineering & architecture for Charter in Denver. He will be

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