News briefing for Monday, March 3 »

Today begins cable’s spring week in NY City, and a chunk of the country’s midsection is bracing for heavy snow. Good day.

The Wall Street Journal is predicting a strong cable upfront due to a scarcity of broadcast ad inventory that might increase rates for broadcast ads and lower broadcast ratings. "A couple more years of bad broadcast ratings and cable holding share — and there will be some cable networks that will be at parity with the worst broadcast networks," Michael Nathanson, a senior analyst at Sanford Bernstein, tells the Journal. The paper also reports Turner today plans to announce its upfront presentation will be held in May, the same week as broadcasters hold theirs. NBC U is holding its upfront earlier too. In a Q&A with CableFAX Daily today, CAB chief Sean Cunningham says the Writers Strike could be a positive for cable ad sales as it will force advertisers to take an even closer look at cable’s increasing ratings and broadcast’s declining numbers.  [WSJ]

As expected, NCTA and other related cable organizations have agreed to schedule all major events into two weeks beginning next year,  NCTA said today. The new schedule kicks off Apr 2, ’09 in D.C. Several events will be linked with NCTA’s The Cable Show, including WICT’s Leadership Conference, the WICT Gala (moved from the fall), Cable Positive’s Power Awards Dinner, SCTE’s Emerging Tech Conference (usually held in Jan), NAMIC’s annual breakfast, CAB’s Annual Conference and The Cable Pioneers annual dinner. In the  fall, beginning Oct 25 ’09 in Denver the lineup joins CTAM Summit, SCTE CableTEC Expo, ACC’s Forum, The Walter Kaitz Foundation gala, CableLabs’ seminar, NCTA’s board meeting, NAMIC’s annual fall conference and The Cable Center Hall of Fame dinner. [Read Seth Arenstein’s blog about this topic.]

Comcast will launch NBC Universal’s mun2 on digital cable in April, adding 7 million households. The long-term agreement also includes Telemundo carriage in Seattle and Detroit. Comcast will provide subs with mun2 and Telemundo programs on demand.

Our best to one of cable’s nice guys, Steve Schiffman, who this morning was named General Manager and EVP of National Geographic Channel. Schiffman had been Acting GM on an interim basis since last spring when founding chief Laureen Ong left.  Schiffman will continue to report to CEO David Haslingden. Schiffman has been at Nat Geo Channel for more than five years,  joining the start-up in 2002 as its EVP for Marketing and Digital Media. Under Schiffman’s guidance, the past year has seen Nat Geo Channel achieve record revenue and ratings, Haslingden said.

These are tough times for cities and their cable companies, consultant James Baller tells the Worcester (Mass) Telegram. “Because cable companies are facing increasing competition…they’ve become extremely cost conscious. They’re watching every penny and they’re pulling back on capital funding they have provided in the past for public access, government channels and institutional networks.” Fortunately for Worcester, a Boston suburb, the city seems to have wrapped up its cable renewal with Charter, the paper says. [WT]

As the Supreme Court might take up the question of television indecency this week for the first time in 30 years, some broadcasters say the rules are confusing, and ask why it’s OK for foul language to be heard on cable but not on broadcast networks, The LA Times reports. [LAT]

HBO has made available on hbo.com the first 3 weeks worth of  episodes of critically acclaimed series In Treatment in an effort to interest Web viewers, who possibly will decide to subscribe to HBO, The NY Times reports. [NYT]

Briefly Noted
Nick at Nite obtained cable rerun rights for comedy Everybody Hates Chris as part of a deal that has the series premiering on the network in fall ’09, The Hollywood Reporter says. The price reportedly is $300-$350K per ep. [THR]

Not a big surprise, cable ops are finding that basic cable is their slowest-growing unit, trailing high-speed Internet access and telephone service, TV Week says. [TVW]

Verizon is investing $200 million in Massachusetts to lure Comcast subs to FiOS video service, TradmingMarkets.com says. [TM]

Never too late to celebrate. Rogers last month reached the 1 million subscriber mark for its Home Phone product, which it launched two and half years ago. The lucky customer, Sarah Tirkalas of London, Ontario, received a bevy of prizes, including tickets to a Toronto Raptors game and free Home Phone service for the coming year.

The EU and the US plan to protest Chinese rules at the World Trade Organization that mandate foreign financial-info companies like Bloomberg sells their products through a state-owned company, The Wall Street Journal says. [WSJ] Got a tip? Contact sarenstein@accessintel.com and sgoldstein@accessintel.com

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