Cable360AM — News briefing for Tuesday, July 17 »

Update: WWE wrestler Chris Benoit’s toxicology report was released today, showing 10x the normal amount of testosterone (but no other traces of anaboic steroids). Georgia’s top medical examiner, Dr. Kris Sperry, also found traces of the anti-anxiety drug Xanax and the painkillerhydrocone, and no traces of alcohol. Sperry said there was no evidence that steroids (or so-called "roid rage") played a role in the murders of Benoit’s wife and son, who were sedated at the time of their deaths, reports AP. WWE issued a statement defending its testing program as "at the very least comparable to those of professional sports," adding that it "has no knowledge" of whether Benoit’s doctor prescribed testosterone after his (clean) drug test in April.

Earlier: Forensic toxicology tests from WWE wrestler Chris Benoit’s autopsy are due to be released today, indicating whether steroids played a role in Benoit’s double-murder suicide. Regardless of the test results, WWE’s board of directors is calling for tougher testing. Hallmark Channel EVP David Kenin—a WWE board member whose ties to WWE dates back to his days heading up programming at USA Networktells the New York Times the Benoit case has prompted a lot of questioning by the board into WWE’s policy for steroid tests, which were last administered to Benoit (who passed) on April 10: "There’s never a sense that it is good enough," Kenin comments. "We’e always looking for improvements." Board member Bob Bowman, CEO of Major League Baseball Advanced Media, wants an independent third party to review WWE’s drug-testing program; he also asks if the thresholds for positive results should be lowered. Bowman tells the Times, "People feel something is amiss here—that’s within their right."



• IN OTHER NEWS

Bright House Networks introduces Pivot-branded Sprint mobile phone service today, while Cox expands Pivot to its New England market — details here.

Rupert Murdoch has reached an agreement in principle for News Corp. to buy Dow Jones at his original bid of $5 billion, reports this morning’s Wall Street Journal. The agreement will go to the Dow Jones board this evening for approval. The two sides conducted a round of negotiations yesterday at which Murdoch declined to sweeten his offer. The New York Times has more.

Three former Securities and Exchange Commission officials yesterday asked to intervene in a Supreme Court case, in which Charter Communications investors want to sue Motorola and Scientific-Atlanta. A bipartisan group of former SEC leaders, including former chairmen William H. Donaldson (R) and Arthur Levitt (D), and former commissioner Harvey J. Goldschmid (D), want to file a post-deadline brief with the high court in what they called a "critical" case which could set a legal precedent for whether defrauded investors can recover money from third parties. [Washington Post]

Charter Communications CEO Neil Smit’s #1 goal: "improve the customer experience." More from Smit in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Comcast‘s Jennifer Maclean called it — today’s New York Times reports that Nintendo‘s Wii is kicking dust in the faces of Xbox and PlayStation.

HDNet owner Mark Cuban (who predicts YouTube will be folded into Google Video) has applied to Major League Baseball for a possible bid on the Chicago Cubs, which would add a baseball franchise to his Dallas Mavericks NBA team. [Atlanta Journal-Constitution]

PixelPlay, an interactive TV games provider whose affiliates include Cablevision, DirecTV and EchoStar, is being acquired by Oberon Media; terms were not disclosed.

SunRocket, a VoIP-based phone service provider, is calling it quits. [New York Times]



• PEOPLE

Everstream hired Judy Donovan as VP of sales, from VP-sales, OpVista; and Joe Thomas as Western region manager, from director of applications engineering, Tropic Networks.

Fox Sports en Espanol hired Pamela Reyes as Southeastern ad sales account executive; from associate director of strategy, Omnicom’s OMD Latino.

Turner Broadcasting hired Walker Jacobs as SVP, new media ad sales, Turner Entertainment; from SVP, Reuters Americas Media Group.



• ONLINE

The NFL‘s new restrictions on use of its games content by media outlets’ websites highlights the "friction between [sports] leagues and the big networks who pay billions for broadcast rights," writes the Wall Street Journal. "Witness Major League Baseball’s excommunication of ESPN’s Baseball Tonight crew from the recent all-star game as just an opening salvo in a battle sure to get nastier soon."

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg sued for alleged intellectual property theft by founders of ConnectU, where he worked as a programmer four years ago. [Portfolio]

Second Life is falling out of favor as an online marketing venue, reports the Los Angeles Times; while email-based Twitter is coming into favor, blogs the New York Times.



• WIRELESS

The New York Times "Bits" blog weighs in on Sprint‘s decision to fire certain "pesky" (or scamming?) customers.

Verizon‘s V CAST mobile TV service expanded in Florida to Naples and Ft. Myers and Gainesville and Ocala.

The winner of the "D-block" license in the FCC‘s upcoming 700 MHz wireless spectrum auction will not be bound by FCC chairman Kevin Martin’s controversial proposal requiring bidders for the national licenses to let consumers use any device and supporting software they choose on the networks that use these airwaves, reports USA Today. The national D-block license will be sold separately next year.



• PROGRAMMING

Bio (the new name, as of this week, for the Biography Channel) has tapped William Shatner to host a 13-episode celeb interview show that will air next year; Small Medium at Large, a series about a four-foot-tall psychic; and I Survived, featuring first-hand accounts of near-death experiences. The channel also this week introduced a new tagline, "True Story" (shades of Court TV‘s pending rebrand to truTV) and a new on-air look. [Variety]

Comedy Central premieres season 2 of Web Shows, its latenight (2am) "video jukebox" with Viacom sib AtomFilms, on Aug. 6.

Discovery Channel is shooting a special on a cache of gold that has been returned to Bulgaria from Switzerland.

The Fright Channel, a fledgling horror network, premiered on-air with a two-hour programming block featuring a restored print of George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead last Friday (the 13th) on Time Warner Cable’s local channel 99 in Los Angeles.

GSN‘s controversy-seeking Without Prejudice (which premieres tonight at 9/8c) is panned in today’s New York Times: "We’ve all been in a place like this, where people we didn’t know made judgments and said stupid things about us based on nothing beyond our appearance and our way of speaking. It was called high school, and do we really need to go back?"

IFC‘s Free Film Fest, an outdoor film festival in partnership with Comcast, hits Memphis from July 31-Aug. 2, its fourth stop on a ten-city tour.

National Geographic HD reached a carriage deal with Cox Communications.

NBC‘s new fall primetime lineup consists of shows developed by Ben Silverman’s predecessor, Kevin Reilly (points out the New York Times‘ Bill Carter.)

Sundance Channel tonight premieres Brit TV series It’s Not Easy Being Green (9pm), about a family’s efforts to go back to the land and adopt a sustainable lifestyle. The series has already been picked up for a second season, along with other mainstays of The Green block including Big Ideas for a Small Planet, Eco-Biz and Ecoists. Sundance also announced its talent pairings for season 3 of Iconoclasts, which returns Oct. 25 (best oddball pairing: Mike Myers and Deepak Chopra, Nov. 8).

TBS‘s premiere tonight of original sitcom The Bill Engvall Show (9/8c) also drubbed in today’s New York Times: "Every time you feel a tired joke coming — about middle-aged lumpiness, marital sex, bad ’80s hair — pour yourself a sip of something. When that joke arrives, drink up. You will deplete a bar."

Television Dominicana (from the Dominican Republic) launched on DirecTV‘s Spanish-language platform, DirecTV Mas, as a premium channel starting at $29.99/mo.

Click here for Monday’s 360AM news briefing »

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

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