News briefing for Wednesday, Feb. 20 »

Members of the newsroom staff are wondering how it feels to be Keith Van Horn, who’ll come out of retirement so the Nets-Mavs trade can be completed, probably not play and receive $4.3 million for his trouble. Good morning.

Last week’s financial report was just the beginning for Comcast, The Wall Street Journal’s George Anders says this morning. The  bellwether MSO scored points by promising a dividend, talking conservatively, reducing exec bonuses for ’07 and promising not to pay founder Ralph Roberts after he dies. But now comes the tougher part, Anders writes, as shareholders push and pull over how the company will be act moving forward. Will Comcast continue to invest in technology and seek acquisitions, or will it be more conservative and make returning cash to investors via dividends and stock repurchases its top priority? [WSJ]

Man, NBC really means business with this cost-cutting stuff. The network has cancelled its annual Radio City Music Hall advertiser upfront extravaganza in favor of smaller, less glitzy sit-downs in 3 cities, The LA Times says. Fortunately, other networks haven’t followed NBC. On the up side for cable, NBCU said it will not only push broadcast shows, but also series from its cable properties, including USA Network. [LAT]
 
Lifetime gets  good ratings with sitcoms like Frasier, Will & Grace, Reba and, yes, The Golden Girls, so it’s about to make one or two itself, The Hollywood Reporter says. The network has signed Media Rights Capital for a pair of pilots, Libertyville, starring Christine Ebersole and exec produced by Caryn Mandabach, and Rita Rocks. Most important, Lifetime can co-own the series. The effort will be Lifetime’s first try at a multicamera comedy.  [THR]

Briefly Noted
USA picked up a 7th season of obsessive compulsive detective Monk.

Style Network renewed Kimora Lee Simmons’ reality series, Kimora: Life in the Fab Lane, for a second season, Hollywood Reporter says. [THR]

FCC chief Kevin Martin’s plan to ease the transition to digital for rural TV stations will hurt cable, the AP says. [AP]

Millionaire Steve Francis says he’ll barrage San Diego with cable and broadcast ads every day for 15 weeks until the city’s June 3 mayoral election. No other candidate can match Francis’ spending plan, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. [SDUT] Yesterday’s News Update

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

Today in CableFAX Daily: Comcast’s Matt Strauss says the MSO has only scratched the surface on VOD.

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