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May 11, 2007

360AM: NFL Network Appeals Comcast Verdict

League fights NY Supreme Court ruling allowing MSO to punt its channel to digital sports tiers; Tom Freston surfaces in HBO horse race; Nielsen preps commercial ratings; and other Friday news.

360AM — Morning news briefing for Friday, May 11 >>

The NFL is suiting up for a re-match against Comcast, after the nation's top cable operator won a major legal victory yesterday in New York. The league had taken Comcast to court to prevent being sports tiered, arguing that cable subscribers balk at the additional monthly costs, but yesterday the NY Supreme Court ruled that Comcast was free to punt the NFL Network onto a digital sports tier and not legally required to make the NFL's channel more widely available. The reasoning: justice Bernard Fried said the league declined to let Comcast's Versus sports net carry its package of eight live regular-season NFL games—and by opting to instead sell those games to its own network, it triggered a clause in its Comcast agreement allowing the operator to shift the net to a sports tier. Hoisted on its own petard, the league intends to appeal. Comcast, meanwhile, starts notifying customers next week that the NFL Network will cost an extra $5/month on a sports tier. The closely watched decision may help other cable operators—such as channel hold-outs Time Warner Cable and Cablevision—secure sports tier carriage for the channel. As the New York Post quotes an unidentified source, "Why would anyone agree to carry the NFL Network on an expanded basic tier now?" [New York Post | AP | Variety | New York Times | NFL.com] In an unrelated development, last night's NHL playoff game was bumped from Comcast's Versus HD sports net (and thus, from DirecTV) onto In Demand's high-def Mojo channel, in which Comcast is a part-owner; TV Predictions has more.

HBO announced its first post-Chris Albrecht move, bumping Big Love to Mondays on June 11 for Season 2—as former MTVN/Viacom head Tom Freston surfaces as a contender for Albrecht's former job. More here.



• COMPETITION WATCH

EchoStar president and vice chairman Carl Vogel, asked on the company's 1st quarter earnings call yesterday about its bid for ION Media Networks, commented: "We keep keep looking for things that are complementary. Broadcast assets are similar to what we do today. We find that category attractive." When asked about Comcast's tests of day-and-date delivery with movie studios, Vogel said nothing precludes Dish Network from doing the same but didn't confirm if that's planned. [Hollywood Reporter]

Verizon tips its cap to the DOCSIS 3.0 demo that wowed The Cable Show on its policy blog, but (naturally) touts its FiOS product as superior (or at least, available) product.



• PROGRAMMING

Nielsen asks TV networks to provide notice when they run text crawls or tickertapes during commercials, which could disrupt its pending launch of commercial TV ratings on cable networks including CNN, CNBC and ESPN. Networks also asked to provide their commercial advertising logs at the behest of Ernst & Young, the auditor assisting Nielsen Monitor-Plus with commercial ratings. [MediaPost]

Comedy Central writers on four series—Mind of Mencia, The Sarah Silverman Program, The Showbiz Show with David Spade and upcoming American Body Shop—joined the Writers Guild of America, joining their already-unionized brethren at The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report. The network told the Los Angeles Times it "respects the rights of our writers to decide if they want to be represented by the WGA" but accused union leaders of spurning an offer to "promptly begin negotiating contracts for each of our current live action shows."

ESPN's EVP of multimedia sales, Michael Rooney, joins Dow Jones (and potentially News Corp.) on May 23 as chief revenue officer of DoJo's consumer media group, a new position. [MediaPost]

Hallmark Channel is drawing about $8 prime-time CPMs in scatter, a 50% increase on 2006 upfront pricing, according to comments on Crown Media Holdings' 1st quarter earnings call yesterday. Crown pres/CEO Henry Schleiff said the network is seeking double-digit CPM increases in this upfront (his first with the channel) over its 5-8% CPM increases in previous upfronts. [MediaPost]

The History Channel picks a winner in its Modern Marvels Invent Now Challenge.

MSNBC's former Secaucus, NJ, headquarters left behind "much of the equipment" and the majority of its infrastructure, ideal (pitches the owner) for prospective TV or media tenants. [NorthJersey.com]

MTV will pair celebs with hip-hop pros for a competitive series that may include E!'s Giuliana DePandi and will likely be called Rapping With the Stars (and not Yo! MTV Re-Raps). [Variety]

NBC Universal named Paula Madison its first EVP for diversity, from president/GM of NBC affiliate KNBC and regional GM of KVEA and KWHY, roles she will continue to hold until a replacement at the stations is named.

WJGV Gospel Vision was given a take-it-or-leave-it digital carriage ultimatum by Comcast in Palatka, FL, or its signal goes dark on July 15. [Palatka Daily News]



• ONLINE/DIGITAL

MySpace launched "Take Down Stay Down," a system allowing copyright holders to prevent MySpace users from re-posting video content already removed at the request of the copyright owner. The feature is available free to all copyright owners, who are waiting for YouTube to enact similar protection.



• REGULATORY

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.) is set to introduce legislation next week aimed at protecting kids from violent TV programming, an aide tells Reuters. Rockefeller, a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, will introduce his bill before the committee's hearing on media violence next Thursday (May 17). Commerce Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) supports Rockefeller's efforts and has pledged to move the bill.

Ohio's Senate passed statewide video franchising bill SB 117, which moves to the House. [Canton Repository]



• IN OTHER NEWS

Cox Communications is cracking down on cable theft in Northern Virginia.

HBO accused a cable operator in Trinidad & Tobago of pirating its signal.

Mark Cuban is backing Content Partners, a start-up that buys out the profit-participation stakes held by individuals in movies and TV programs, among other intellectual properties. [Variety]

- Shirley Brady

• Click here for 360AM news briefing for Thursday, May 10 >>







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