NEWS BRIEFING FOR THURSDAY, MAY  1, 2008

Down by 5 with 2 minutes to go and they win; that’s why they’re called Wizards. Good day.

Investors should avoid screaming May Day, May Day after reading Comcast’s Q1 earnings report, an analyst tells Bloomberg Radio today. Most things are where they said  they would be, if not a bit better, Miller Tabak’s David Joyce says. Cable’s largest MSO suffered a 13% in profit vs one year ago when a one-time gain bolstered numbers. Sales were up 14% to $8.39 billion; analysts expected the figure to be $8.17 billion. Internet access sales rose 12% to $1.75 billion, besting estimates, while net income fell to $732 million, from $837 million. Sales on digital phone doubled, to $573 million. Comcast also repeated its ’08 revenue growth estimate of 8-10%. Capital spending will be down to 18% of sales and free cash flow will jump 20%. [Bloomberg]

It was inevitable. The day is coming when product offerings of cable and other telecom providers will be so similar that one of the main differentiators will be customer service. Perhaps that’s why Comcast has 15,000 customer service reps in the past 18 months. Over at Verizon, whose customer service horrors have been slowly coming to the fore, a no-nonsense customer service czar has been hired and a 90-person elite squad oversees complaints from triple-play subscribers, The Washington Post reports. [WP

Even more competition to cable, DBS and the telcos? The May 19 edition of Forbes profiles a startup formerly called Building B now known as Sezmi that promises to use airwaves and the Internet to deliver HD cable and HD broadcast shows to a special set-top. And all for a slightly lower price than cable. The company starts tech trials in 3 markets soon and says it’ll be ready to go by year’s end. The venture might not succeed, a blog in The L.A. Times says, but it shows what’s possible in the future.  [Forbes] [LAT]

Briefly Noted
Cablevision intends to put down $650 million for Newsday, outbidding Rupert Murdoch and Mort Zuckerman, The NY Times says. [NYT

How intent is Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer on acquiring Yahoo? He might walk away from it, The Journal says. [WSJ

AT&T like rival Verizon Wireless will offer TV service for mobile phone users, despite questionable demand. [WSJ]

Time Warner’s net dropped 36% yesterday. Guess Wall St wasn’t too impressed with the cable spinoff. [NYT]

Oh, they’re gonna love this at CAB. The NY Times reports on low ratings for broadcast shows returning from the writers strike, but fails to mention that viewers might have decided to switch to cable. [NYT

Late Stories
Cox’s in-room guest video unit, Cox Business/Hospitality Network, crafted an agreement with National Lampoon to deliver original classic content and new feature films to 80K Las Vegas hotel rooms on a PPV basis. Recently Cox added voice, data and video to its Cox International Hotel & Tower in Vegas. The MSO says it serves nearly every hotel on the Vegas strip.

AETN upped Carlos Baez to Regional VP of Distribution and David Kelly to VP of National Accounts. Kelly will handle all negotiations with MSOs, while Baez will run AETN’s Atlanta office,distribution, affiliate marketing,local ad sales and ops in the southeast, Caribbean and Puerto Rico. Got a tip? Contact sgoldstein@accessintel.com and sarenstein@accessintel.com

Wednesday’s Top Stories

What are the best companies to work for in the cable industry? Help CableFAX: The Magazine decide by nominating the companies you think should be on our list of the Top 10 Places to Work in Cable by completing our online nomination form.  We will run the Top 10 Places to Work as a Web exclusive on Cable360.net and on CableFAX: The Magazine’s home page.

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