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May 22, 2007

360AM: Discovery Times Eyes CBS

Zaslav prods Moonves to take 50% of Discovery Times, but CBS, more interested in Web start-ups, buys Wallstrip; and more Tuesday news.

360AM — News briefing for Tuesday, May 22 >>

Discovery Communications Inc. pres/CEO David Zaslav has pitched CBS Corp. pres/CEO Les Moonves about buying half of the Discovery Times Channel. DTC co-founder the New York Times bailed out last year, selling its 50% stake back to DCI. The Washington Post reports that Zaslav, who first approached Moonves in January but is also talking to other potential investors, will rebrand the channel for a new partner. DTC, which is profitable, is valued at $135 million and now in 47 million homes. CBS—the only major TV broadcaster not to own a general interest basic cable entertainment channel, like NBC's USA Network—is more interested in Web acquisitions. Witness its latest deal: Moonves & Co. today bought Wallstrip, a tongue-in-cheek financial news video blog, for a price that Jossip estimates at $5 million. [Release | NewTeeVee]

Comcast's new regional sports network with the Portland Trail Blazers, announced yesterday, will be managed by Comcast's Golf Channel COO and Portland native Dave Manougian. Besides 55 Blazers' games next season, Comcast SportsNet Northwest will feature a locally-produced morning newscast and launch locally on Comcast's expanded basic cable service. Sports Business Daily says Comcast will seek $2 per subscriber and pegs yesterday's deal at $12 million to $13 million a year, "a sizable contract for a team that has not played in the postseason since 2003 and whose attendance has plummeted from five years ago," notes The Oregonian. Comcast may face more competition locally — The Oregonian also reports that Qwest is close to getting a video franchise in Portland to launch TV service as soon as next year.

Meanwhile, new Golf Channel president Page Thompson (handicap: 14) is featured in today's Philadelphia Inquirer; as expected, given Thompson's prior role as SVP of video for Comcast, Golf will aggressively expand on the VOD, mobile and online front.

Cablevision CEO James Dolan received compensation valued at $11 million last year, according to an SEC filing yesterday. Cablevision also said in its proxy statement that it will hold a special shareholder meeting to discuss the Dolan family's proposal to take the company private. Meanwhile, Cablevision's regularly scheduled annual shareholder meeting takes place June 14. [AP]

Time Warner pres/COO Jeff Bewkes, recipient of CTAM's 2007 Grand TAM Award, will open the CTAM Summit on July 24.

University of Denver chancellor emeritus Daniel Ritchie was elected chairman of the board of the Daniels Fund, named after cable pioneer Bill Daniels.



• COMPETITION WATCH

AT&T expands in Michigan by today announcing plans to deploy U-verse in 50 Metro Detroit communities (representing 100,000 homes) and in Ann Arbor. The launch comes just six months after AT&T won approval for a statewide cable franchise; Detroit News has more.

DirecTV tomorrow adds Azteca America to its local broadcast channel in Phoenix, marking its 26th local market for the Hispanic broadcaster. With KPDF-41's DirecTV local channel debut in Phoenix, Azteca America will cover 76% of U.S. Hispanic households with the launch.

EchoStar Communications yesterday prevailed in a lawsuit brought by Forgent Communications, with a Texas jury finding invalid the patent Forgent claimed EchoStar had violated. On May 13 DirecTV agreed to pay $8 million to Forgent in a settlement in return for being granted a patent license; on Apr. 26, Forgent settled with nine other defendents for a total of $20 million.

Qwest was slapped down in the Colorado community where it's testing IPTV. The city of Broomfield, after listening to the company's request for a franchise, "told Qwest to come back when it's ready to offer something similar to what Comcast did," (ouch!) reports Rocky Mountain News. Qwest today started selling EVDO mobile broadband service from Sprint, yawns Broadband Reports.

RCN expanded its triple play footprint in Boston with addition of 6,000 homes in Dorchester, MA.

Verizon expanded its FiOS TV rollout in SE Pennsylvannia and around New York City.

Washington Post blog follows up on yesterday's story about homeowners' struggles to break "decades long" exclusive triple-play contracts that developers ink with service providers such as Dulles, VA-based OpenBand.



• ONLINE

Club Penguin, the popular online community for kids 8-14, is reportedly being eyed by Sony and News Corp. — SmallFrySpace, anyone? [BusinessWeek]

CNN took a minority stake in Internet Broadcasting Systems, which produces 70 TV station websites and will use CNN.com content to beef up its online network of affiliates. The Wall Street Journal adds that CCN.com will relaunch this summer with all its live and archived video content available free, abandoning the premium subscription model it tested with CNN Pipeline's video feeds.

Fabrik, a Web storage and digital media management start-up, announced that former Fox Interactive Media president Ross Levinsohn has joined its board of directors and that it raised $24.9 million in a fourth round of financing.

Google filed a proposal with the FCC yesterday suggesting that the agency let companies allocate radio spectrum using its proprietary real-time online auction system that serves up ads. [New York Times | CNET]

Joost signed a deal with Hollywood's Creative Artists Agency; CAA will help Joost with programming and talent deals to enhance its Web video portal.

MySpace made peace with state attorneys general yesterday, agreeing to hand over names, addresses and online profiles of thousands of known convicted sex offenders who have opened up accounts on the service. The popular social networking site also said it had deleted 7,000 online profiles of convicted sex offenders. The announcement came a week after MySpace said privacy laws prohibited it from divulging more information to state officials. "We had this information safeguarded and ready to hand over," Mike Angus, EVP and general counsel for MySpace owner Fox Interactive Media, tells the New York Times. "But we wanted to make sure that each state got the information through a legal process that allowed them to use it to prosecute and lock up these sexual predators. The last thing we wanted was for one of these predators to get off on a technicality."

NBC Universal will debut new online ad formats from Unicast.

Yahoo is considering paying up to $1 billion to acquire community-based website Bebo, which has 25 million users worldwide but only has 1.28% market share in the social networking space in April (according to Hitwise) compared to 79.7% for MySpace and 11.47% for Facebook, which accounted for about 0.84% of US web visits last month, roughly double its traffic in September when it stopped requiring a college or high school email address to join. [New York Times | Finacial Times]



• PROGRAMMING

Big Ten Network president Mark Silverman holds a live chat with fans on Thursday.

Comedy Central hosts a free show on June 22 featuring comedian Dave Attell at Central Park's SummerStage. "Comedy Central Park" will be sponsored by (the Big) Snapple.

Disney CEO Bob Iger expects windows to collapse between theatrical and DVD, pay-per-view and video-on-demand releases of movies — but isn't holding his breath for same-day simultaneous releases across the board. [Seattle Post-Intelligencer]

ESPN is taking over the package of Big 12 conference football games that has aired on TBS (in a sub-license deal with Fox Sports Net) over the last five seasons. ESPN gets up to five Big 12 games starting Sept. 15 while FSN retains up to 19 games. [Dallas Morning News]

Fox Reality original reality series The Academy, about LA County Sheriff's Dept. rookies, premieres Thursday.

GSN will premiere Show Me The Money, a game show hosted by William Shatner that ran on ABC, on June 12; two never before seen episodes air July 17/24. [Release | Hollywood Reporter]

The History Channel tapped two hosts to fill Josh Bernstein's desert boots now he's globe-hopped over to  Discovery Channel. History renewed Digging for the Truth for a fourth season and named Hunter Ellis, a former Navy fighter pilot and host of other series on the channel, and Zay Harding, who has hosted travel series for British television.

IFC's The Henry Rollins Show features actor/director Steve Buscemi and Brit activist/musician Billy Bragg on Friday night.

Lifetime EVP of research and eminent TV historian Tim Brooks announced he's retiring at the end of this year; expect more books from the Grammy-winning author.

MTV renewed sketch comedy series Human Giant after a 24-hour telethon from May 18-19 lured 1.2 million pageviews on its website. [New York Daily News]

MTV Networks' chairman/CEO Judy McGrath and ad sales president Hank Close discuss in today's New York Times some successful ad skipping-busting techniques, including running an extended single commercial in a break, on MTVN's cable networks including MTV, Comedy Central and Logo.

MTV Networks will help program a new Hindi-language entertainment channel as part of a bigger joint venture in India announced by Viacom and the TV18 Group.

NBC has been widely criticized by hockey fans for Saturday's decision to bump the conclusion of the Buffalo Sabres-Ottawa Senators NHL game to Comcast's Versus national sports network and run the first half hour of Preakness horse racing coverage. [New York Times | Hollywood Reporter]

NBC O&O stations in 10 markets will air season two of improv comedy series Sports Action Team this fall and also run related webisodes on their websites; the syndicated series also runs this fall in high-def on HDNet.

NFL's Canadian TV rights (including the Super Bowl) move to CTV in a 3-year deal after CanWest declined to renew its broadcast deal. CTV will have the rights to the Sunday early afternoon package, the playoffs and the Super Bowl while Rogers Communications, also part of the NFL's new Canadian deal, will broadcast games in the late afternoon (4:00 p.m. ET) on Omni 1, Omni 2 and Rogers Sportsnet. TSN, a national sports network, retains NFL regular season games thorough a prior deal.

Studio 4 Kids' video-on-demand channel announced What Matters to Moms, a series produced with Parenting magazine. The Studio 4 Networks-owned channel is on VOD in 13.5 million homes on Cox, Comcast, Charter, DirecTV and Canada's Shaw Communications and will launch on Bresnan Communications by July.

Style kicks off its annual 21-Day Wedding Party on June 2, with new series I Propose (June 12) and new wedding-themed episodes of other series. The movie Honeymoon in Vegas airs June 22.

Sundance Channel founder Robert Redford will build his third indie cinema, a six-screen theater, in Denver. The first Sundance Cinema opened May 11 in Madison, Wis. and a 2nd is under construction in San Francisco. [Denver Post]

Travel Channel will air Most Haunted Live USA on June 1 with a 7-hour telecast and web-watching as British ghost-hunters investigate alleged paranormal activity in Philly's Eastern State Penitentiary.

TV Land will air a 14-hour marathon of roadtrips on Memorial Day.

VH1 is taping a reality series with Tila Tequila, dubbed "the Madonna of MySpace" by Time. [KRT]



• TECHNOLOGY

AP reports that cities are struggling to the costs of municipal Wi-Fi projects.

Anadigics added former Comcast chief technology officer David Fellows to its board of directors.

Concurrent named Michael Pasquinilli VP of engineering.

Cox Communications tapped @Road for mobile resource management.

Microsoft TV, just dropped by Comcast and losing its only U.S. market, picks up steam overseas with a deal to launch on Chungwha Telecom, Taiwan's biggest telco. [Taipei Times]

TiVo co-founder Mike Ramsay resurfaced Monday as a venture partner at New Enterprise Associates, where he tells Red Herring he's looking forward to guiding start-ups. His biggest lesson learned in launching TiVo: "It's not about features. It's about simplicity."

- Shirley Brady

• Click here for Monday's 360AM news briefing >>







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