Cable360AM — News briefing for Tuesday, Oct. 9 »

Breaking: NBCU is buying Gerry Laybourne’s Oxygen Media — more details here.

The National Hockey League yesterday officially confirmed our story last week about the NHL Network‘s U.S. cable launch partners — Cablevision, Comcast, Cox Communications, Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks — who began rolling out the channel in select markets (including TWC NY/NJ) on Oct. 1. The league also announced that DirecTV and Dish Network will launch the channel. The channel will offer 50 games to U.S. hockey fans in its first year, while an NHL spokesperson yesterday said the league will launch a full-time HD channel (enabled by Intelsat) in the U.S. later this month, "offering all of the games in HD." At least one market of avid (some might say rabid) U.S. hockey fans — Time Warner Cable’s 310,000-subscriber Buffalo and Western NY region — will have to wait. "It’s under consideration, but we won’t carry it immediately," TWC Buffalo spokesperson Robin Wolfgang tells Business First of Buffalo. "It’s a matter of finding room and bandwidth."

Wal-Mart
is getting into the broadband business. The retail giant will sign up subscribers for satellite-delivered broadband from Hughes Communications in 800 U.S. stores. According to the companies’ press release this morning, they’re eyeing the 36% of Americans who don’t yet subscribe to DSL or cable high-speed Internet — and particularly the 10% of rural Americans who can’t, because their communities are unserved by broadband providers. BusinessWeek says Wal-Mart may not only challenge cable and DSL with discount broadband pricing, but with Geek Squad-like support now being tested in several stores. Wal-Mart also hopes selling broadband will spur sales of PCs, Web-enabled TVs and the Skype Web phones it began selling earlier this year.

TiVo is expanding into audio through a partnership with RealNetworksRhapsody subscription music service, Real’s joint venture with MTV Networks. TiVo —whose customers can sign up for a 30-day free trial of Rhapsody on TiVo — has already moved beyond its TV roots through partnerships with Yahoo for photos and Amazon‘s Unbox service for movies. The New York Times points out limits to TiVo’s Real deal: "TiVo owners cannot use the service to move music around their homes or to transport songs from TiVo to a mobile device. As for TiVo’s larger strategy of turning its box into an Internet hub, the question is: is it enough to save the company?" More in USA Today and the New York Post. Separately, TiVo added two VOD channels from Players Network, which also provides how-to-gamble VOD content to Comcast.

AT&T is paying about $2.5 billion in cash to Aloha Partners for wireless spectrum covering 72 of the top 100 U.S. markets (or about 196 million people) and all the top 10 markets. Aloha owns Hiwire, a live mobile TV service now being tested in Las Vegas. The Wall Street Journal has more.

Living up to his surname, Sprint Nextel chairman and CEO Gary Forsee saw the writing on the wall following press reports the company’s board was looking to replace him by year-end by resigning yesterday, effectively immediately. Paul Saleh, Sprint’s CFO, was named acting CEO until the position is filled, while board member James H. Hance Jr. was also named nonexecutive chairman. The company also announced that it will miss revenue forecasts for 2007; more in today’s New York Times and Wall Street Journal.

Cablevision addressed rumors in yesterday’s New York Post that a shake-up is coming at Madison Square Garden in the wake of Anuch Browne Sanders’ $11.6 million sex-harassment suit verdict last week. "The management and leadership of the company will continue to be firmly in place," the company told the Post, which also noted that a new sex-harassment suit is looming against MSG.

The Supreme Court today hears StoneRidge Investment Partners v. Scientific-Atlanta, a securities case that could determine whether shareholders can sue third parties over another party’s illegal practices. StoneRidge is seeking to sue Scientific-Atlanta and Motorola for helping Charter Communications inflate earnings by directing set-top box fees into a bogus ad fund. More from Bloomberg and Forbes.

Suddenlink Communications spokesman Pete Abel confirmed to CableFAX Daily that the company is taking bids on its systems representing about 150,000 subscribers in Texas and Oklahoma.

Connecticut will now be home to just one national sports network, with Comcast relocating Versus from Stamford to Philadelphia and leaving ESPN to expand its fiefdom in Bristol. About 100 Versus managers will move into the new Comcast Center next year, which will dedicate four floors to Comcast’s programming networks run by Jeff Shell. Versus studios will remain in Stamford, where Comcast is locked into a lease for the former OLN’s production space. [Philadelphia Inquirer]

AT&T‘s U-verse TV channel lineup will add History Channel HD and Lifetime Movie Network HD on Oct. 15, in addition to (in standard def) BYU Television, Chiller, Fox Business Network, ION Life, and MTV Network’s Urge digital music service; plus, starting Oct. 23, three international channel packages and a la carte channel options targeting Filipino, Vietnamese and South Asian viewers.

Cablevision‘s Voom HD is participating in Virgin Media‘s 50Mbps trial in the U.K.

EchoStar yesterday booted Dish Network re-sellers Newport Satellite and Inkor Satellite "for violation of EchoStar’s policies regarding customer acquisition and lead generation tactics."

Today’s buzz story, no doubt to Comcast‘s chagrin, concerns 75-year-old customer Mona Shaw, who took a hammer (literally) to a Comcast office in Manassas, VA, over a botched triple play installation.

Yesterday, Google‘s stock price crossed $600 for the first time (with Reuters quoting an analyst who feels $700 is in Google’s sights). Today, Google announced it’s opening up YouTube videos (whose owners agree in advance) to becoming ad-supported and widely distributed online across Google’s network of AdSense publishers; AP and the New York Times have more.

We’re sorry to hear that former Cox Communications chairman and CEO Jim Robbins and former Time Warner Cable EVP of programming Fred Dressler are battling cancer — Seth Arenstein has more. Seth also tips his hat to cable’s outstanding programming this month around breast cancer awareness, including tonight’s premiere of an unforgettable doc, Dear Talula, on Cinemax. Read yesterday’s Cable360AM briefing >



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