A Roamin’ Empire HBO chief Chris Albrecht has defended his company at TCA before, but never with the gusto or depth he showed Fri, attacking reports of a downturn caused by fewer Sun-night viewers. Reporters who believe success is based on Sun-night ratings (9-10pm) "don’t have a real understanding" of HBO’s business, he said. "HBO is and will continue to be the most profitable network in the world…we’re in terrific shape," he insisted. Indeed, his description of HBO’s breadth of Emmy noms and ability to dominate multiple platforms (VOD, wireless, DVR, IP, even the start-over product Time Warner’s eyeing) made the network sound like the Roman Empire at its height (incidentally, "Rome" premieres Aug 28 on HBO). "We think HBO is better positioned than any network to take advantage of…new distribution platforms" because "we produce almost [all our shows]" and "we have a brand that stands for something…HBO is really the only network that people pay for." In addition, "we have deals in place" with theatrical studios that bring HBO "over 50% of all the output Hollywood makes." Plus, HBO on Demand already "is over 50% of the usage of all SVOD services." Returning to ratings, he said HBO’s "cume" (reruns and showings on the multiplex and SVOD) is more important than Sun-night ratings. HBO is more than "The Sopranos," "Sex and the City" and "6 Ft Under." While they brought much notoriety to HBO, "as far as the bottom line went, the subscriber base was not affected to a greater extent than the norm." Upcoming, a Tom Hanks-produced mini about John Adams and one on WWII in the Pacific Theater (Hanks and Spielberg) "will cost probably $300mln…I don’t think anybody’s playing on the same planet as we are when it comes to that level." HBO Notes HBO renewed "Entourage" for a 3rd season and will hire additional writers to get "as many episodes as possible…at least 13." — "The Sopranos" returns Mar ’06, but speculation about a possible season 7 remains. Is Albrecht optimistic? "I change my mind every day." — Larry David’s "Curb Your Enthusiasm" will concentrate on individual stories instead of last season’s long plot arc. — HBO will stick to Fri-Sun premieres. And "by the 3rd episode of Rome we’re actually going to be doing something unprecedented with regard to HBO On Demand." TCA Notes Nat Geo will make its "Inside 9/11" special (Aug 21-22) available free to all non-affil cable operators. — Showtime’s opened the vault on an Emmy-winning ’72 concert by Liza Minnelli that was shown 1x on NBC; it will run on Showtime in ’06 re-mastered and remixed in Dolby Digital 5.1. — Hallmark unveiled a Sun-am talk show hosted by Naomi Judd (Nov 27), describing it as "a new spiritual examining faith and mind-body-spirit communication in a powerful and unforgettable message." Also new: Dick Van Dyke vehicle "Murder 101," joining Hallmark’s Fri-night mystery rotation and a holiday special with Maya Angelou. — Jennifer Love Hewitt stars in 1 of 3 ABC Family original films unveiled Fri; in a film about 2nd chances called "If Only," she plays an impetuous girlfriend who’s killed, but is able to rise from the ashes. — Helpful: Sundance provided critics with a 32-page guide from the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation to accompany doc series "TransGeneration" (Sept 20) about college students struggling with their gender. — Sci Fi will premiere 6-hour mini "The Triangle" in Dec. Starring Eric Stoltz and Lou Diamond Phillips, it features a disparate group of professionals out to investigate the mysterious Bermuda Triangle. — WE’s got a new twist on VH1’s "I Love the (insert decade)" series: "I Can’t Believe I Wore That." Debuting Dec 5-8, the 4-parter looks at some of the styles we sported in the ’70s, ’80s, ’90s and even the millennium. — Style will debut "Isaac," a daily, lifestyle talk show featuring designer Isaac Mizrahi, in late ’05. It’ll differ from the Oxygen predecessor, "The Isaac Mizrahi Show," in that it will be less focused on entertainment and more focused on beauty, style, home & garden, etc. — Bravo debuts 1-hr special "A.S.S.S.S.C.A.T.: Improv," this fall. The fully improvised show features comedy group Upright Citizens Brigade interacting with special guests, such as "SNL’s" Tina Fey.

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Cable Urges FCC to Keep 25/3 Benchmark

NCTA, ACA Connects and others are urging the FCC not to raise its 25/3 speed benchmark as the agency begins to craft its annual Section 706 report.

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