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October 1, 2007

360AM: DirecTV's October HD Bonanza; Cablevision's MSG Sues NHL

DirecTV continues march to 100 HD networks by year-end; NHL called "illegal cartel" over broadcasting policies; and more Monday news.

Cable360AM — News briefing for Monday, Oct. 1 »

Expanding on last week's 21 HD channel launches, DirecTV announced more networks it will be launching in high definition throughout October: Bravo, Cartoon Network, Cinemax HD (East- and West-coast feeds), CNBC, Food Network, Fox Business Network, Fuel, FX, HBO West, HGTV, MGM HD, MTV's MHD, NBA TV, National Geographic Channel, SCI FI, Speed, and USA. Other HD networks launching by year-end include BIO, CMT, CSTV, MTV, Nick, Spike, the Tennis Channel, VH1 and The 101, DirecTV's original programming channel which is now home to former NBC soap Passions (which also launches an extended online version today, for $19.99/mo).

DirecTV's competitors are being forced to step up: SureWest Broadband next month plans to add 15 new HD channels to the 23 it already has; AT&T will add five HD channels onto its current lineup of 27 by year-end; and Comcast this quarter plans to add 4-8 HD nets, depending on the neighborhood, notes the Sacramento Bee.

EchoStar's planned spinoff could hinder any potential acquisition by AT&T, according to Rocky Mountain News. AT&T's U-verse expands today to 400,000 homes in Houston and announced it's now available to 135,000 homes in Connecticut, which today empowers the state's DPUC to approve statewide video franchises. AT&T filed an application today under the new state law, which it expects to be approved within 45 days, and plans to hire more than 240 installers as it ramps up in CT.

BusinessWeek reports that investors are warming up to Verizon's FiOS TV, while Adweek looks at Verizon's local FiOS TV marketing efforts. Verizon Wireless, meanwhile, is touting USB-ready "broadband on a stick," notes eWeek.

Comcast and Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia are teaming up on Martha Stewart on Demand, a VOD channel that launches this week with 10 hours of programming.

Busy fighting a sexual harassment suit in a Manhattan federal court, Cablevision-owned Madison Square Garden is suing the National Hockey League. Calling the NHL "an illegal cartel," MSG feels the league is making "unnecessary and disproportionate incursions'' into the local broadcasting rights of teams. "The NHL has unreasonably restricted a team's ability to distribute its own live games through the team's Web site and/or the Web site of its local television holder,'' according to the complaint. The Garden wants to bar the NHL from interfering in team-related businesses and isn't seeking financial damages. [Bloomberg | Wall Street Journal]

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is #27 on BusinessWeek's new Power 100 list of top figures in sports, while NBA commissioner David Stern is #3. Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts is #24; the full list is here.

The Big Ten Network announced a deal Friday with RCN, which will launch BTN in Chicago and Pennsylvania, including Comcast's hometown of Philly. PA-based operator Service Electric Cable TV launches BTN today, reports Allentown's Morning Call.

Belo is spinning off its television and newspaper businesses into separate businesses, creating the largest publicly-traded television station company in Belo Corp.

Comcast withdrew its FTC-approved offer to purchase the assets of Millennium Digital Media in northern Anne Arundel County, MD, where Millennium has 40,000 cable subscribers. [Baltimore Sun]

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Catching up? Don't miss Friday's Cable360AM briefing.

• Coffee's on us: Enter here for a $50 Starbucks card.

• Nominations are due for CableWorld's 2007 Top 50 Women in Cable.

• Got a tip or feedback? Send an email to sbrady@accessintel.com.







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