Cable360AM — News briefing for Wednesday, June 27 »

WWE released the five text messages sent by Chris Benoit to WWE personnel early Sunday, hours after he killed his wife and son; hours before committing suicide, his messages indicate more concern for his dogs. WWE head Vince McMahon apologized at the opening of last night’s ECW telecast on SCI FI for Monday night’s Benoit tribute on USA‘s RAW, notes TMZ. Click here for more on WWE’s response to claims of "roid rage" or steroid abuse in what McMahon called "this horrific tragedy."

Verizon released a commissioned survey indicating (surprise!) 40% of Verizon customers prefer Verizon’s bundled  voice, video and phone services to cable operators’ triple-play bundles. "Comparable numbers were just over 31% for Cox, 28% for Time Warner, 25% for Cablevision, 24% for Charter and 23% for Comcast," states its press release, which also indicates Verizon’s results beat Comcast in New Jersey, Cablevision in New York and Time Warner Cable on the West Coast, where FiOS TV is just rolling out and Time Warner is trying to win over customers disgruntled during post-Adelphia transition woes.

Speaking of Adelphia: founder John Rigas and son Tim must report to prison on Aug. 13 for their fraud convictions of 15 years and 20 years, respectively. John Rigas may have his sentence shortened after two years, as prison doctors believe he has less than three years to live, reports AP.

New HDTV stats from the Consumer Electronics Association: the CEA projects 16 million HDTV sets will be sold this year, for 52.5 million total; 30% of U.S. households now have an HDTV, growing to 36% by year-end. Almost one-third of HDTV households own more than one HD set, while 44% of current HDTV owners receive HD programming but purchased an HDTV to watch DVDs and play video games, with nearly 40% of HDTV owners connecting surround sound and video game systems to their sets. 66% of HDTV owners get their programming through a cable subscription, 27% via satellite and 8% over-the-air, 3% via fiber optic service and 3% from the Internet. "This profile mirrors the U.S. television reception profile, indicating that HD content is not resulting in a migration to or from any one television-programming provider," comments the CEA. CEA’s conclusion that HDTV owners aren’t interested in TV-delivered HD programming was dispelled by this stat: more than 50% of HD households surveyed expressed interest in upgrading their HD subscription packages to include more HD channels. The survey of 2,508 adults was conducted in April.

Cable networks are staking their ratings preference, with MTV Networks licensing IAG Research as a complement to Nielsen for measuring VH1 starting this fall (IAG already measures MTV). "Our ability to deliver dynamic insertion through our Visible World agreement, and our ability to measure engagement levels through IAG will make our efforts to re-create the commercial experience a winning proposition for clients," stated MTVN ad sales president Hank Close. Turner Networks is cutting upfront deals using Nielsen’s so-called C3 ratings (commercial ratings + 3 days of DVR viewership), notes MediaPost. Lifetime also inked a major upfront deal with GroupM using C3 currency and has wrapped up half its upfront deals, MediaPost hears from Lifetime SVP ad sales John Matluck.

Apple‘s iPhone is favorably reviewed in today’s Wall Street Journal and the New York Times; ValleyWag sums up the critics’ reviews. iBuyers started lining up before 10am yesterday at Apple’s flagship Fifth Avenue store in New York, notes NYT. (First in line: this guy.) Queue-holder offers on CraigsList are running up to $300.

Charter Communications joined Comcast and Time Warner Cable in freezing out the Big Ten Network, reports Madison.com. The biggest cable operator to meet Big Ten’s terms (no sports tiers, $1.10 per subscriber in Big Ten states and 10 cents elsewhere) is Buckeye CableSystem, which serves 150,000 subscribers in northern Ohio and southern Michigan.

Cablevision relaunched its Optimum Online Web portal with personalization features and localized content.

News Corp.‘s Rupert Murdoch said he expects to land Dow Jones within 2-3 weeks; News Corp. yesterday reached a working agreement with a board committee on a plan to protect the editorial independence of The Wall Street Journal. [Reuters]

The NBA extended its TV deals with ESPN/ABC and TNT (including digital platforms and live streaming) through the 2015-16 season.



• PROGRAMMING

Discovery Channel unveiled the 3,500-year-old mummy of Queen Hatshepsut, the only known female pharoah, at a press conference in Cairo today. Discovery’s special, Secrets of Egypt’s Lost Queen, airs July 15.

Disney Channel‘s High School Musical tour is hitting the ice.

Here! launched on Time Warner Cable‘s Greater Columbus, OH, market.

Lifetime signed Molly Shannon for More of Me, an original movie premiering this fall.

mtvU‘s Meet or Delete was renewed for a 2nd season and is going global across MTV Networks’ worldwide networks and platforms.

TCM premieres Spielberg on Spielberg on July 9.

TNT rescheduled its new series Saving Grace, starring Holly Hunter, from July 18th to premiere July 23rd after The Closer, bumping Heartland to 8pm Mondays before The Closer.

TV Land unveils a life-sized statue of Elvis in Honolulu next month (July 26). The statue is on the site of the 1973 Aloha from Hawaii concert special, part of TV Land’s month-long tribute in August to the King.

USA‘s The 4400 star Billy Campbell, half-joking, told USA/SCI FI head Bonnie Hammer he would work for free on Battlestar Galactica’s fourth and final season, now in production. [SyFyPortal]



• PEOPLE

Discovery Communications signed Rainbow Media CIO David Kline as its new EVP and CIO.

Fox News hired Ray Hennessey as managing editor and director of the Fox Business Channel website; he was previously editor of Dow Jones/Hearst‘s SmartMoney.com and a former staffer of CNBC-Wall Street Journal Television.

Hallmark Channel re-upped EVP programming David Kenin through Dec. 2009, increasing his base salary to $825,000 next year and $850K in ’09 according to parent company Crown Media‘s SEC filing yesterday.

LinkedIn signed former TiVo CFO Steve Sordello as CFO. [Reuters]

MTV named former Fine Living GM John MacDonald as SVP, content programming and strategy; his most recent title was president, content and programming, Veoh Networks.

NBC‘s new programming head (and eyebrows) Ben Silverman is profiled in today’s Los Angeles Times. Quote: "Everyone, it seems, has a favorite Silverman story, many of which involve his signature eyebrows, which amazingly arch and flutter."

Oxygen promoted Michael DuPont to VP, Eastern sales, from VP, strategic partnerships.

Warner Bros. promoted Andy Mellett to SVP, Video on Demand, Warner Bros. Digital Distribution; from VP, VOD.



• ONLINE

CNN‘s Pipeline, which ceases as a paid service Saturday, is bid adieu by CNN.com GM David Payne here.

Comcast‘s thePlatform is helping BBC World News bring its content to a dedicated YouTube channel and other broadband video sites. The deal is part of the BBC’s Web video push, with the Beeb’s iPlayer now launching July 27.

Google explains why it bought DoubleClick.

MySpace founders holding News Corp. over a barrel? [Deadline Hollywood Daily]

NBCU acquired Sugar Publishing, owner of PopSugar and nine related sites, to join its iVillage community.

Vuguru, Michael Eisner’s Web studio, announced The All-For-Nots, which follows a Spinal Tap-like fictional band’s cross-country tour, as its second original online series.

YouTube audio buzz clip, designed for headphones with no video: Virtual Barber Shop. Beyond YouTube, Will Ferrell and Pearl are back in an homage to TNT’s The Closer.



• IN OTHER NEWS

TVWorks, a joint venture of Comcast and Cox Communications, licensed Bitstream‘s fonts for its interactive program guides and other user interfaces.

Cablevision prevailed in its "effective competition" FCC petition to have its basic cable service rates deregulated in Montvale, NJ. [BurbsBiz]

CommScope announced it’s acquiring cable-maker Andrew Corp. for $2.6 billion.

Time Warner Cable sued a former contractor in Springfield, OH, for illegally tapping into cable services at his home [Springfield News Sun] while a former Charter Communications supervisor pleaded guilty yesterday to stealing more than $200,000 worth of equipment and reselling it, reports the Boston Globe.

Broadband National Inc. launched a website, HDTVSpecialOffer.com, touting high-def offerings on Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Charter launched a website.

Shirley Brady

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