News briefing for Tuesday, Feb. 19 »

Consolidation of the cable industry is playing out north of the border, too. The family that runs the family run Aurora Cable TV Ltd has decided to sell its 16,000 cable television customers, 6,000 Internet subs and 1,500 phone customers to large Canadian operator Rogers. Financials were not disclosed, but The Globe and Mail believes that at roughly $3000 per sub the Irvine family could clear as much as $48 million from the deal. The paper says this likely will not an isolated occurrence. “There are still several dozen small cable players across the country that have managed to stay independent despite hegemonic advances from Rogers, Shaw Communications Inc., Vidéotron Ltée and Cogeco Cable Inc.,” it reports. [Globe and Mail]

Perhaps the long-suffering Tampa Bay baseball team should rename itself yet again, and adopt the moniker Blue Rays (or is that too confusing with the team in Toronto?). Nonetheless, it’s just about all over in the format wars and Sony is the winner. Toshiba Corp today gave up battling its Japanese rival in the $24-billion high-def home movie arena, conceding that Sony’s Blu-ray will be the standard for the foreseeable future. Toshiba said it would shudder its HD DVD business by the end of March. Investors welcomed Toshiba’s decision to cut its losses. Reuters, in a story picked up by The Globe and Mail, says the defection to Blu-ray by Time Warner Inc.’s Warner Bros studio last month was a decisive moment in the battle. After that, the deluge, with Wal-Mart, Best Buy and Netflix backing Blu-ray. [Globe and Mail]

Comcast should not be allowed to move public access channels up the dial and out of reach of  analog customers, The Detroit Free Press complains in an editorial. “The problem here is not the federal government but state cable law, which the Legislature rewrote to spur competition in the cable TV industry. The law consolidates most cable franchising power in Lansing, not in each city hall." [The Detroit Free Press]

Briefly Noted
Cox is unable to keep up with  the demand for Motorola HD boxes in the Wichita, Kansas, area. Customers are being put on a waiting list of indeterminable length, The Wichita Eagle says. [Wichita Eagle]

NBC Universal upped a trio in its digital distribution unit: Jennifer Boudreaux to VP, Sales Business Development; Chip Canter to VP, Wireless Platform Development; and Michael Schreiber to VP, Sales Business Development. 

Gotta love the way newspapers cover stories about each other. The NY Times pokes at new LA Times publisher David Hiller, saying “many” employees in LA consider him “a star-struck outsider, a meddler in the newsroom who does not understand journalism or Los Angeles.” [NYT]

A trio of British Internet providers—Virgin Media, BT, and Carphone—is teaming to grab a piece of the online ad market that’s been dominated by Google, Yahoo and Microsoft. The trio will allow a company called Phorm to gain access to its subs’ browsing history. Phorm then sends ads to the subs based on their interests. [NYT]

Big media companies like Disney, Viacom and Time Warner are making video games of their television characters in house instead of outsourcing them, The Wall St Journal reports. The reason? Videogames are the fastest growing entertainment sector, with US sales up 34% last year to $8.64 billion, NPD Group says. [WSJ] Friday’s News Update

Got a tip? Email sgoldstein@accessintel.com and sarenstein@accessintel.com

Today in CableFAX Daily: Countdown to the digital transition.

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