Playmakers, ESPN’s jock opera about the travails of a fictional pro football team, has had another strong outing, luring about 2.2 million viewers for its second episode.Capitalizing on the frenzied ramp-up to the 2003 NFL season, the serial increased its viewership among men in the coveted 18-to-34 demo by 5%. Even a squeam-inducing catheterization scene couldn’t dampen ratings for the new show; the telecast, along with a repeat of the premiere, helped propel ESPN to the top spot among cable nets in the prime-time male demo. New York area sports fans who are Cablevision Systems customers were disappointed last Thursday when they could not catch the season opening NFL game on ABC in high-definition. By Friday, however, according to Cablevision customers, the MSO had sent out HD feeds of the local CBS affiliate, which just happened to be airing the U.S. Open on the first sunny day in New York City in a week. The latest addition to Cablevision’s HD lineup, which includes HBO, Showtime, MSG and Fox Sports Net New York, follows the MSO’s soft launch of PBS in HD in late August and its official launch of a lineup of HD movies on its VOD platform last week. A Cablevision spokesman Friday declined to confirm the CBS launch, but said the company would have a significant announcement on the expansion of its HD tier within a few days, or early this week. Although Cablevision’s VOD HD movies are $6.95 each, it currently charges nothing extra for its HD package. EchoStar Communications announced Friday it would add ESPN HD to its HD lineup. ESPN HD will be added to EchoStar’s $9.99 HD package, which includes Discovery HD Theater, HDNet and HDNet Movies. EchoStar also offers hi-def feeds of CBS, HBO, Showtime and pay-per-view movies. In the battle for supremacy among DVR hard drives, EchoStar’s latest DVR offering, slated for the end of October, is a $999 set-top box capable of recording up to 25 hours of hi-def programming, or up to 180 hours of standard-definition content. Andy Wright, president of the Satellite Broadcasting and Communications Association, will resign Sept. 30.… VH1 nabbed cable rights to 8 Mile in a deal Variety estimated at $6.5 million for 11 runs. The WB paid $5 million for broadcast rights in a combo deal that sees the Eminem-starring movie first become available to VH1 in April 2005.… Comcast is co-hosting the first Latino Cinema Day in Silver Springs, Md., with Discovery en Español and the AFI Silver Theater.… Wilma Massie, who founded the Outdoor Channel with her late husband George, died of cancer at her home in Temecula, Calif. She was 64.

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