News briefing for Tuesday, Feb. 26 »

Will Hill and Bama cuddle tonight or will the debate be a slug fest? Only in America. Only on cable. Good day. 

You knew he was coming. Well, he says he’s nearly back. Dr Deathstar (aka John Malone) told BusinessWeek yesterday afternoon that once the FCC approves Liberty’s acquisition of DirecTV Group, he’ll craft alliances so he can take aim at cable power players like Comcast and Time Warner Cable. [The 66-year-old tycoon spoke to BusinessWeek prior to the FCC’s approval of the DirecTV deal, see item below.] Once he has DirecTV, Malone promised he’ll partner with telecom carriers and possibly EchoStar, although he says he’ll not likely merge with the number 2 satellite player. The silver fox also sees opportunities to hit cable on phone and high-speed Internet, the piece on the magazine’s Web site says. [BW]

As expected, the FCC late yesterday approved Liberty’s acquisition of DirecTV. [Reuters via NYT]

ESPN and the Masters reached an agreement for coverage of the 2008 tournament across ESPN.com, ESPN360.com and masters.org. The highlight is live streaming on ESPN360.com. The pact includes rights for live streaming of all ESPN event telecasts on 360, live streaming of Amen Corner and Masters Extra on masters.org, live look-ins and highlights on ESPN.com. There will also be daily video and audio podcasts. This marks the sixth straight year that ESPN has collaborated with the Masters for digital media coverage, expanding the coverage each year. ESPN will be carrying the first two rounds of the Masters live this year.

Comcast’s roasting Monday during an FCC hearing at Harvard Law School on blocking Internet traffic won’t lead to new legislation, but it shed light on providers’ so-called network management techniques, BusinessWeek says. (This story is also covered on page 1 in today’s CableFAX Daily.)  [BW]

At least some good news for Comcast: in a piece about the utility of bundling, Consumer Reports says the MSO was the best at explaining “what the fee would be after the promotional period.” While the magazine says consumers can benefit financially by bundling services, and urges them to haggle with providers, a survey it conducted found that the profusion of plans from cable, DBS and the telcos leave many buyers confused. CR also urges consumers who switch to cable’s bundle to consider keeping a traditional landline for 911 calls. [CR]

More labor news involving the writers. Monday the Writers Guild, the Screen Actors Guild and the Teamsters joined forces behind a bill in the California state senate that would boost their cut when programs are shown on cable. The groups say Hollywood’s major studios undercharge their co-owned affiliates, including cable nets, to re-broadcast shows; this practice cuts down on residuals, The LA Times reports. [LAT]

Good financials for Mediacom in the fourth quarter. Owing to a substantial reduction in basic sub losses, Mediacom posted revenue of $332.5 million, up 6.2% and OIBDA of $119.5 million, up 8%. The company lost 7K basic subs during the quarter; it lost 14K during the same period last year. Data revenue rose 16.1% due in part to a 14% rise year over year in data subs. Telephone revenue jumped 72% due to 76% more customers. Despite more investment in 2008, Rocco Commisso sees Mediacom increasing free cash flow relative to 2007 by about $18 million.

The NY Times analyzes ratings king Nielsen in the wake of a defeat yesterday. On Monday, Nielsen said it was cancelling Project Apollo, which was following the buying, viewing and listening habits of 5K households. Not enough customers were interested, Nielsen said. [NYT]


Briefly Noted
WWE has agreed to broadcast WWE SmackDown on MyNetwork TV, beginning in the fall. The two-hour program will be presented weekly. SmackDown on Feb 8 left its longtime home on the CW/UPN.

The NFL Network won a victory over Comcast today when a lower court’s previous ruling that the MSO was entitled to place NFL Net on a sports tier was overturned.

Discovery Nets’ to-be-launched Planet Green named, among others, Robert Kennedy Jr, Leonardo DiCaprio, former EPA head Carol Browner, Sony BMG chief Andrew Lack, Terri Irwin, Philippe Cousteau and Jeff Corwin to its board of advisors. 

Many of us think of breakfast in New Orleans as an oxymoron. Maybe that’s why NAMIC chose heavy hitter/Cox chief Pat Esser as honorary chair for the annual NAMIC awards breakfast during The Cable Show, May 19, 7:30am, Moriale Convention Center. Esser’s sure to  draw a crowd.

HBO yesterday unveiled an official channel on YouTube that will carry promotional videos, content made exclusively for the channel and full eps of new original series In Treatment, the nightly episodic vehicle that at least one member of our news team finds addicting. [HBO Channel on You Tube]

Miley Cyrus (aka Hannah Montana) and her dad Billy Ray Cyrus will host the 7th annual CMT Music Awards April 14, 8pm, on CMT.

Fresh off an Oscar for Juno, writer Diablo Cody’s next project is Showtime’s comedy pilot The United States of Tara, set to begin shooting in Los Angeles on April 14.  It’s based on an idea by Steven Spielberg and stars Toni Collette as a wife and mother with multiple personalities. Got a tip?  Contact sarenstein@accessintel.com and sgoldstein@accessintel.com

Monday’s Top Stories 

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