Cable360AM — News briefing for Friday, June 1 »

Oxygen is bucking other cable networks and the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau (CAB) by participating in eBay‘s Online Media Exchange for national TV ad sales, reports today’s Wall Street Journal. The CAB announced in April it was pulling out of a test of eBay’s proposed system, which has attracted Home Depot, Microsoft, H-P and Intel as charter advertisers to test its Web-based bazaar for TV ad buyers and sellers. Seven cable network members of the CAB (including Discovery, ESPN, Lifetime and Turner Networks) tested the system in March before the CAB board withdrew its support.

The CAB last month formed a commission to explore commercial ratings, which Nielsen started reporting yesterday—just in time to throw networks’ and agencies’ 2007/08 season upfront negotiations into a tailspin. Retiring Lifetime research head Tim Brooks tells MediaPost‘s Joe Mandese that the TV upfront marketplace has never had to deal with this much untested data. The New York Times says Nielsen’s first commercial ratings data is already proven to be unreliable, with women 55-64 ratings now being re-crunched. MTV Networks research head Colleen Fahey Rush tells the Times her networks’ hybrid commercial/programming interstitial content (a big push for all TV networks this upfront) is overlooked by Nielsen’s new data: "How ironic is it that we would go and be ardently reinventing the commercial pod, and we’re not going to be recognized for it."

Nielsen estimates about 17% of U.S. households have DVRs. As NBC Universal research head Alan Wurtzel commented to the Times, "The notion a year ago was that any commercial that was viewed on a time-shifted DVR had no value. All of that was wrong." About 58% of broadcast primetime commercial viewing in Nielsen’s first study occurred "live" while 42% of commercials were watched in DVR playback mode. Nielsen’s new data also showed about two-thirds of ads being viewed in a non-timeshifted mode in DVR households and about 40% of recorded commercials weren’t fast-forwarded. Still, more than half of commercials were skipped during DVR playback, although Nielsen didn’t break out the exact number. More from AP.



The FCC yesterday ruled that new entrants to video services and telephony markets should not be prevented from competing for consumers in multi-unit buildings (MDUs). RCN pres/CEO Peter Aquino commented: "The FCC ruling ensures companies like RCN will not be handcuffed in competing effectively and thus, offering consumers more choice of service providers. We thank all at the Commission who participated in this ruling, especially FCC Chairman Martin and Monica Desai, the Chief of the Media Bureau."

The Commission’s open meeting also tackled E911 standards for wireless carriers that currently stipulate service providers must be able to determine a caller’s location within 100 meters for 67% of the calls and 300 meters for 95%. The FCC will consider a proposal that would instead require wireless carriers to meet location accuracy standards for each local emergency call center. "Quite simply, providing location accuracy information on a multi-state or state-wide basis is not enough," said Martin. The FCC said it would study whether providers of VoIP service should be required to meet the location accuracy standards. [Reuters]



Lionsgate is planning to distribute its movies online with Best Buy and Blockbuster to expand on its Apple and Amazon deals, CEO Jon Feltheimer announced on the company’s earnings call yesterday. The Canadian producer of the Saw movie franchise said revenue from VOD and pay-per-view now equal about 10% of its box office take on releases such as Crank and Employee of the Month, and that its digital revenue from Internet delivery increased seven-fold in 2006. [Variety]

Qwest Communications is talking to Hollywood studios about a Web-based movie download service. [Rocky Mountain News]



• PROGRAMMING

Cable networks are "launching more new series than ever" this summer, notes the Wall Street Journal; click here for our summer cable programming guide.

HBO signed Alexander Skarsgard, James Ransone, Stark Sands, Jon Huertas and Lee Tergesen as the lead cast in Generation Kill, its Iraq-based miniseries from The Wire creator David Simon and director Ed Burns. [Hollywood Reporter]

Jewish Life TV network profiled in the Los Angeles Daily News.

MTV Networks is reviving MTV’s flagship Unplugged series with a cross-networks’ telecast of Jon Bon Jovi Unplugged: June 22 on MTV, June 23 on VH1, VH1 Classic and MHD: Music High-Definition, and June 24 on CMT. Bon Jovi will perform songs on his new album, Lost Highway. Upcoming Unplugged performances include Kenny Chesney, Mary J. Blige, John Mayer and the Police.

Nickelodeon will launch a series of "mini-shows" or interstitial programs based on Neopets, an affiliated Viacom property that boasts 40 million worldwide members in its online virtual world. Nickelodeon also announced a branded resort hotel deal with Marriott for 20 properties by 2020 and the first Nick resort to open in San Diego in 2010.

Outdoor Channel‘s parent company added three cable veterans to its board: former Cox Communications exec Ajit Dalvi, former NCTC pres/CEO Mike Pandzik and David Kinley, a longtime operator who founded the Small Cable Business Association (now the American Cable Association).

SCI FI is pulling the plug on Battlestar Galactica after its 22-episode fourth season, which starts in November. The Peabody Award-winning series was named one of the 10 Outstanding Television Programs of the Year by the American Film Institute for two years in a row and popularized "frak" as an expletive. [Variety | Hollywood Reporter]

Teletubbies creator Andy Davenport is pitching U.S. networks on his latest trippy kids’ TV series, In the Night Garden, billed by the Wall Street Journal as the most expensive British childrens’ series ever.

Travel Channel debuts Most Haunted Live tonight at 8pm ET with an unprecedented seven-hour live telecast from the Eastern State Penitentiary in Pennsylvania.

USA Network acquired basic cable TV rights to Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End from Buena Vista TV for $28 million. [Variety]



• ONLINE

Joost‘s long-term goal, according to BusinessWeek‘s Jon Fine: "dangling itself as buyout bait for a distribution company like Comcast, getting into the set-top-box business, or even eventually running on the Skype platform—now owned by eBay, which is mulling applying its auction system to TV ads." Joost’s next CEO will likely be former Cisco executive (and current Skype board member) Mike Volpi, notes PaidContent.

Warner Music International (headed by former Vivendi/NBC Universal exec Patrick Vien) is making its catalog of music videos free on the Internet via a deal with UK-based Premium TV. Both companies will share revenue from in-stream advertising, pay-per-download special offers, syndication and subscription-based mobile services. [Variety]



• IN OTHER NEWS

News Corp.‘s Rupert Murdoch may yet get his hands on the Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones‘ controlling shareholders, the Bancroft family, announced they have changed their minds and are willing to consider his offer and arrange a meeting while staying open to other offers and options. Murdoch has said he would brand his pending Fox Business Channel with the WSJ moniker if he lands Dow Jones. InterMedia Partners‘ Leo Hindery tells Bloomberg, "Yes, it’s going to get done, and it’s going to be News Corp., and it should be." Dow Jones’ shares soared above $60 on the news. [Family statement | WSJ | AP]

A Minnesota woman, Julie Pyle, and her husband are suing DirecTV after one of two installers working in her home told a dispatcher he was "being held hostage." Six police officers arrived, guns drawn, and forced the schoolteacher to the ground to be handcuffed before searching her home. DirecTV, contractor Premier Communications and local police are named in the suit. An attorney for the League of Minnesota Cities said he expected the case to be thrown out and dismissed the Pyles’ version of events as inaccurate. More details in the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Shirley Brady

• Click here for Thursday’s 360AM news briefing »

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