Cable360AM — News briefing for Tuesday, August 7 »

USA Network closed one of the biggest movie deals in its history, paying about $60 million to Universal Pictures for rights to theatricals including last weekend’s box office smash, The Bourne Ultimatum and Matt Damon’s earlier hit, The Good Shepherd. Also included in the deal: I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry, Children of Men, Breach and Man of the Year. USA gets Chuck & Larry on Dec. 1, 2009, and The Bourne Ultimatum on Jan. 1, 2010, after they complete their pay cable runs on HBO. Variety and the Hollywood Reporter have more.

Media spending will pass $1 trillion in 2008, with TV usage increasing 76 hours (to 1,073) per viewer from 2006-2011, according to Veronis Suhler Stevenson‘s annual communications industry forecast. Media spending will increase about 6.7% annually, from $942 billion this year to $1.2 trillion in 2011, the third-fastest growing sector in the economy. Consumers will also spend an average of $411 annual on cable and satellite in 2011, up from $308 last year, a projection that includes digital channels, DVRs and broadband but not phone service. More in USA Today. Interesting sidebar: the Washington Post’s account of grumbling students deprived of all electronic media in a 24-hour test (headline: "The Longest Day.")

Turner Media Group, which owns and operates eight national TV networks in addition to (at one point, exclusively) handling interactive ad sales for EchoStar‘s Dish Network, filed for bankruptcy. MediaPost says TMG (also known as The Media Group) has had a rocky relationship with EchoStar since the satellite TV provider started using Google to handle some of its ad sales in April. Update: The Evening Bridge digs into TMG’s chapter 11 filing, which states that EchoStar also dropped TMG’s eight channels earlier this year, and that its bankruptcy is "almost solely attributable to the actions of EchoStar" (which declined to comment). TMG’s networks will continue to be carried on Time Warner Cable and DirecTV.

Mediacom reported 2nd quarter results with a net loss of $6.6 million in the quarter, versus net income of $5.7 million in Q2 2006. Mediacom added 18,000 RGUs but lost the same number of basic video subscribers in the quarter, when average monthly revenue per sub rose 12% to $80. More details here.

AP offers 2nd quarter earnings previews for Cablevision, which reports tomorrow, and DirecTV, which reports Thursday. EchoStar‘s quarterly earnings will be reported Friday.

Insight Communications will restate financial results to correct an accounting error. The company’s 2006 annual report understated net losses from 2004 to 2006. [AP]

Virgin Media extended the deadline for the UK cable operator’s sale so bidders including Liberty Media "can complete their proposals in a more stable debt market environment."

An added blow during their last week of freedom, John and Timothy Rigas (who have one last weekend of freedom before starting their sentences Monday) today see their former Adelphia Communications headquarters hit the auction block. The three-story building in Coudersport, PA—valued at $30 million, with a $1 million minimum bid—is part of a "must sell" auction that includes former Adelphia properties in other states.

Cisco CEO John Chambers tells the Wall Street Journal the Scientific Atlanta brand will be phased out in the next year as he transitions the company to a single brand.



• COMPETITION

AT&T‘s U-verse roll-out is stalled in Connecticut, where Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and the Office of Consumer Counsel asked state utility regulators to order the telco to get a statewide cable franchise before signing up new U-verse customers. [AP | Hartford Courant]

Verizon issued a press release touting its triple-play bundles and FiOS TV growth.

DirecTV‘s ads featuring Sigourney Weaver, Bill Paxton and other actors reprising their movie roles "has gotten such strong feedback that DirecTV … is frequently contacted by agents, actors and TV network executives who want to see their old movies and TV shows become part of the series," reports the Washington Post. The campaign is male-oriented because "men are the primary buyers of satellite TV service, [so] the ads tend to trade off macho action films and goofy comedies."

SureWest reported 2nd quarter earnings, with broadband connections up 14% year-over-year to $17.1 million in revenues; more details here.

Qwest gave officials in the Colorado city of Arvada 90 days from yesterday to rule on its video franchise. "The application marks the first local test of a new Federal Communications Commission order enabling telcos to put communities on a 90-day shot clock," notes Rocky Mountain News.

The Wall Street Journal reports that small- and medium-sized firms are signing up for "less expensive, easier to manage" VoIP phone service from start-ups such as M5 Networks, Fonality and Digium — a market that cable operators are eager to pursue.



• PROGRAMMING

Bravo‘s profile on this week’s cover of New York magazine continues with an online extra noting what former Queer Eye foodie Ted Allen really thinks of Project Runway first-season winner Jay McCarroll.

Disney Channel was #1 across TV on July 13th, with 5.1 million total viewers in primetime while NBC was #2 with 4.6 million viewers. Disney hopes the ratings triumph wasn’t a Freaky Friday occurrence, writes the Hollywood Reporter.

ESPN‘s Bronx is Burning HD production came in on time and under budget, boasts a tech partner.

ExpoTV will bring local user-generated videos to Charter Communications’ video-on-demand platform in St. Louis with a contest soliciting "Videopinion" user reviews through Sept. 3.

FX greenlit an untitled cop drama as a potential successor to The Shield, reports Variety. FX viewers of Damages who lost the last 10 minutes of last week’s episode on Time Warner Cable‘s New York City system can catch the full episode on free VOD through today, reports the New York Post.

Hallmark Channel is talking to Maine minister Peter Panagore about a daily devotional morning show, reports AP. It’s also shooting a reality series, The Bridge, which (according to this press release) "attempts to demonstrate the similarities of people from vastly different cultures in an effort to foster a better understanding between countries," starting with the U.S. and Egypt.

The History Channel commissioned additional episodes of summer hit Ice Road Truckers to air Aug. 19th and 26th, with a two-part reunion special that will run Sept. 2/9.

MSNBC‘s Keith Olbermann, who tonight moderates a Democratic presidential debate (starting at 7pm ET) in Chicago, has seen an uptick in ratings in the past year, notes the Los Angeles Times. Former MSNBC morning host Don Imus is close to signing a new deal (reports New York magazine) while Joe Scarborough’s contract to take over the slot is close to being finalized, reports AP.

Nickelodeon‘s Drake & Josh: Really Big Shrimp movie netted almost 6 million viewers for its Aug. 3 premiere.

Playboy reported a 2nd quarter profit with with domestic TV revenues "back on track" for a 4% boost in the quarter. The adult programmer is refreshing its Playboy TV brand on Labor Day to help cable operators plus its SVOD service on free VOD, says Christie Hefner. Details are here.

Players Network added Terry Debono to its board of directors; he was president and founder of CGTV (Casino and Gaming Television) Canada.

TV One needs to become a bigger part of Radio One’s business within five years (along with online), CEO Alfred C. Liggins tells the Washington Post.

Warner‘s release of 300 on DVD on a same-day basis with VOD (and HD-VOD in select Time Warner Cable markets, notes TVPredictions) set a high-definition DVD sales record with 250,000 copies sold in the first week, apparently uncannibalized by its day-and-date VOD release. Comcast adds the title to its HDVOD menu Aug. 14.



• ONLINE

AT&T, Verizon and Comcast are forwarding infringement notices to subscribers suspected of online piracy, notes  Investor’s Business Daily.

A Cox Arizona rep says popular websites like Google, eBay and MySpace are running slower due to server "caching problems by one of their vendors." Interesting in light of Jupiter’s report today for Akamai, which handles 20% of the world’s Internet traffic, saying that 60% of consumers will blacklist a website if the video experience is poor.

NBCU digital VP Saj Kanaujia says the economic models need to improve before Web video becomes a feasible business, in an online debate on WSJ.com. NBCU’s NewSite/NewCo/nameTBD Web video portal with News Corp. will charge for movie downloads but stream TV shows for free, NBCU digital head George Kliavkoff tells Forbes.

Vuze attracted 7 million users to its HD and standard-def Web video portal in its first six months, and expanded its deal with the BBC to offer The Office (here) as an online download.

YouTube‘s copyright infringement suit initiated by Viacom added the National Music Publishers’ Association to a growing list of plaintiffs. [AP]




• WIRELESS

The FCC asked Sprint Nextel to eliminate disruptions that its wireless system creates in public safety and emergency radio communications. Sprint’s spectrum is interwoven with the radio band used by police and firefighters. [Wall Street Journal]

Wireless marketing campaigns such as Alltel‘s Man Cave spots (and micro-site) are hoping a mocking tone will attract younger subscribers, notes the New York Times.



• TECHNOLOGY

Alcatel-Lucent’s $1.5 billion judgment against Microsoft in a patent infringement lawsuit over MP3 digital music technology was overturned by a federal district court judge. [New York Times]

Cox Communications tapped Sana Security for its high-speed Internet security software.

NDS acquired Web video start-up CastUp for about $11.3 million.

Sharp yesterday sued Samsung for allegedly infringement of its LCD patents. [Dow Jones]

TiVo‘s patent received the first phase of its USPTO reconsideration, notes blogger Dave Zatz.



• PEOPLE

Charter Communications chairman Paul Allen is reducing his stake in DreamWorks, selling 10 million shares worth about $320 million while DreamWorks buys back an additional $150 million worth of his shares. [Wall Street Journal]

MTV Networks EVP Bill Flanagan tonight reads from his 2nd novel, New Bedlam, about a TV exec running three "tacky" cable channels (Eureka!, a Bravo-esque arts channel; BoomerBox, like AMC for sitcoms; and the Comic Book Channel, as IFC is to film geeks) owned by a squabbling Long — er, Rhode — Island family. Catch Flanagan at 7pm at Barnes & Noble in New York, a safe 30 or so blocks from Rainbow Media HQ.

Scripps president and CEO Ken Lowe extended his employment agreement through June 30, 2010, according to an SEC filing.

Time Warner Cable SVP and controller Richard Petty will retire on Jan. 31, according to an SEC filing.

Time Warner Inc. CEO Dick Parsons bought about $500,000 of his company’s stock, reports Reuters.

Is Viacom chair Sumner Redstone preparing to fire his next family member? Nikki Finke says wife Paula is next on the chopping block, after his fall-out with his son and daughter. She also has more on yesterday’s editorial shake-up at Broadcasting & Cable and Multichannel News.



• IN OTHER NEWS

Cablevision‘s Paterson, NJ customers are required to use a digital set-top box starting today, a move that adds 16 channels (including TCM and GSN) to its Family Cable customers but will cost an extra $6.25/month next year. [NorthJersey.com]

Charter Communications in central Minnesota shuffled 9 channels (including GSN, G4, SoapNet and Toon Disney to digital) to make room for A&E HD and History Channel HD on Sept. 6, and a new religion and values digital tier including EWTN, INSP and Gospel Music Channel. [St. Cloud Times, MN]

News Corp. is expected to post a profit in its quarterly results being reported tomorrow. [MarketWatch]

Time Warner Cable is asking for help after a rash of Texas copper thefts. [BetaNews]

USA Today looks at the digital TV transition’s impact on the public, with a sidebar Q&A for confused consumers.

SNL Kagan finds "modest" growth for cable networks and syndicated TV programming.

Former AT&T Broadband, TCI and YES Network CEO Leo Hindery (now an advisor to John Edwards’ presidential campaign) writes in an op-ed that CEO compensation needs to be curtailed. [The Politico]

Click here for Monday’s 360AM news briefing »

Got a tip? Contact Shirley Brady at sbrady@accessintel.com

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