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News summary for 10/17/07

Wed, 10/17/2007 - 9:44am
CED staff

Cablevision investor opposes deal; Dolans not raising offer
By Mike Robuck

The Dolan family’s bid to take Cablevision private has hit another speed bump, but the family has vowed not to increase its offer.

ClearBridge Advisors, a U.S. equity manager owned by Legg Mason, said today it will vote against the Dolan family’s $10.6 billion bid to take the company private. ClearBridge, Cablevision’s biggest institutional investor, said it plans to vote against the Dolan family’s offer of $36.26 a share in next Wednesday’s shareholder vote. ClearBridge owns roughly 13.8 percent of Cablevision while the Dolan family’s stake is currently 20 percent.

ClearBridge is the latest high-profile company to oppose the proposed buyout by the Dolans, who founded Cablevision. On Friday, Mario Gabelli’s investment firm Gamco Investors, which has an 8 percent stake in Cablevision, said it would oppose the Dolans’ offer.

The Dolan family issued a statement on Tuesday that said the family will not raise its offer before the Oct. 24 vote. The Dolans need the approval of 50 percent of the public shareholders to close the deal.

“On behalf of my parents, brothers and sisters, I want to state emphatically that there will be no modification of the family’s accepted offer to acquire Cablevision,” said Cablevision president and CEO James L. Dolan, in a statement. “We are looking forward to next week’s vote and hope that the transaction is approved, but I’d underscore that I am completely prepared to continue to lead the company into the future as a public company if the transaction is not approved.”

NCTA goes to bat for the little guys, requests dual carriage exemption
By Brian Santo

The NCTA will urge the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to exempt small cable operators and low-capacity cable systems from a mandatory broadcast signal dual carriage order that the FCC adopted in September.

The FCC decreed that after the DTV transition in 2009, cable operators will be obligated to carry two signals from every must-carry station – an analog signal and each station’s primary digital signal (which could be SD or HD).

The order allows small cable operators to request waivers, but the American Cable Association said that some of the smallest operators may not have the resources to afford to petition for a waiver they are uncertain to qualify for, let alone be able to afford the investment in infrastructure required to support dual carriage.

NCTA president and CEO Kyle McSlarrow said the Senate Commerce Committee in 2006 approved this type of blanket exemption for small operators, but the legislation never proceeded to the Senate floor. The recent FCC order “largely punts this question to a further notice of rulemaking,” according to McSlarrow’s prepared remarks, circulated in advance of his testimony scheduled for today.

“The FCC did include a process whereby operators with systems of 552 MHz or less of capacity could apply for waivers, but given the FCC’s poor record on waiver requests in other contexts, this is little more than window dressing and unnecessarily burdensome,” the testimony says.

Gemstar-TV Guide, Toshiba in patent dispute
By Traci Patterson

Gemstar-TV Guide International Inc.’s subsidiary, StarSight Telecast Inc., has initiated patent litigation proceedings against Toshiba Corp. in the Tokyo District Court.

In its complaint, StarSight alleged that Toshiba infringed one of its Japanese patents related to techniques for providing certain interactive program guides (IPGs) and controlling recordings from IPGs.

Gemstar-TV Guide and its related companies have nearly 200 issued patents and pending applications in Japan. The company’s Japanese patent portfolio supports its G-Guide IPG service.

"We have endeavored to license Toshiba as a commercial partner for their sales of consumer electronic devices in Japan that use IPGs covered by our patents, but to date, negotiations have shown no meaningful progress," said Akitaka Nishimura, president of Gemstar Multimedia in Japan.

Toshiba could not be reached for comment.

Free Webinar on targeted advertising
By CED staff

Fred Allegrezza, strategy development, Home and Networks Mobility, Motorola, and Steven Riedl, Principal Architect, Time Warner Cable will discuss the opportunities in addressable advertising in a free Webinar tomorrow (November 18) hosted by CED and sponsored by Motorola.

“Advanced Targeted Advertising: Teaching the old dog new on-demand tricks,” a free, 60-minute Webinar, will be held tomorrow at 11:00 am Eastern Time (8:00 am Pacific Time). Registration is free (register here).

Advertisers simply want to know that their ads are being seen by the most receptive audience for each ad.

With targeted advertising, service providers can give advertisers that assurance – but the tools for enabling targeted advertising are still fairly new.

This event’s panelists will discuss interactive advertising, telescoping, and on-demand advertising, infrastructure requirements and options, how to build on success, and realistic expectations for return on investment.

House approves extension to Internet tax ban 
By Mike Robuck

On Tuesday the U.S. House of Representatives voted 405-2 in favor of extending an Internet tax moratorium for four more years.

The House passed the Internet Tax Freedom Amendments Act that extends the moratorium on Internet taxes and other Internet-based taxes until November 2011. The current ban was set to expire Nov. 1 after Congress first put it in place in 1998. The bill now heads to the Senate.

The House bill narrowed the definition of Internet access, allowing state and local governments to tax Internet-related services such as VoIP. Some opponents of a permanent extension, including lawmakers, said that the original tax moratorium could be interpreted to ban taxes on services such as VoIP.

Some entities within the technology industry had hoped Congress would pass a permanent ban that would prevent state and local governments from taxing Internet access.

“With the House of Representatives passing legislation today that extends the Internet Tax Moratorium, another important step has been taken to ensure broadband access remains affordable for consumers,” said Matthew M. Polka, President and CEO of the American Cable Association (ACA), in a statement. “Small cable operators who are deploying broadband services in smaller markets and rural areas applaud the House for continuing to preclude state and local governments from taxing this vital service."

Industry veteran Claude Baggett
By Brian Santo

The cable industry lost another of its veterans, with the recent death of Claude T. Baggett.  Baggett had been with CableLabs from 1989 through 1998, when he retired. He joined the organization as Director, Consumer Electronics Systems, and in 1993 he became Director, Customer Premises Equipment.

Prior to joining CableLabs, Claude worked at a director level for American Television and Communications Corp. (ATC), the forerunner of Time Warner Cable. He also worked in system operations for Cox Communications.

“Claude was one of the pioneers of CableLabs in a number of ways,” said CableLabs President and CEO Dr. Richard R. Green. “He was one of our first hires on the original team as we tried to get the laboratory established on a solid foundation, and he was our first staffer to undertake what has been a lengthy commitment to working cooperatively with the consumer electronics industry,” Green added.

Technical Emmy nominees announced
By Traci Patterson

The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS) has released the list of nominees for the 59th Annual Technology & Engineering Emmy Awards. According to Peter Price, the president and CEO of the NATAS, there was a 75 percent increase in applicants this year.

The awards honor achievements in two areas: science, engineering and technology for broadcast TV - which includes broadcast, cable and satellite distribution - and science, engineering and technology for broadband and personal TV, which includes interactive TV (iTV), gaming technology, the Internet, cell phones, private networks and personal media players. The eligibility period was May 1, 2006 to June 30, 2007.

The awards will be presented at the Technology & Engineering Emmy Awards at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which will be held in Las Vegas on Jan. 7.

The nominees for the broadcast TV category include:

* Outstanding achievement in advanced media technology for best use of on-demand (consumer-scheduled or programmed) technology over broadband networks for passive “lean-backward” viewing (TV):

o Switched Digital Video: Revolutionizing TV, Time Warner Cable/BigBand Networks
o Vongo TV, Starz Entertainment
o Adoniss 2, TVN Entertainment

* Outstanding achievement in advanced media technology for best use for creation and distribution of interactive commercial advertising delivered through multichannel broadband devices (digital STBs):

o Rbk Monday Night Football Experience, Brightline iTV/Reebok International
o Axe Boost Your E.S.P. Interactive Channel Experience, Brightline iTV/Unilever

* Outstanding achievement in advanced media technology for best use of on-demand (consumer-scheduled or programmed) technology over broadband networks for active “lean-forward” viewing (PC):

o Denver’s Favorite Animal, Grey Worldwide
o PGA.com Pipeline, Turner Sports
o Disney.com XD, Walt Disney Internet Group
o MLB Mosaic, Ensequence/MLB.TV

* Outstanding achievement in advanced media technology for best use of personal media display and presentation technology (PSP, cell phone, personal media player, mobile devices):

o MobiTV Interactive, MobiTV Inc.
o ESPN MVP, ESPN
o Bravo To Go, Bravo

* Outstanding achievement in advanced media technology for best use of commercial advertising on stand-alone broadband devices (PCs):

o Anything Goes Program, JWT
o Extreme Diet Coke and Mentos Experiments, The Coca-Cola Co./EepyBird.com
o The L Word in Second Life, Showtime Networks/Electric Sheep Co.

* Outstanding achievement in advanced media technology for synchronous enhancement of original TV content for interactive use (two-screen environment TV/PC or TV/mobile device):

o MLB.com GameDay with Pitch – F/X, MLBAM
o March Madness on-Demand, CBSSports.com/CBS Sports
o RaceView on NASCAR.com, Turner Sports/Sportsvision
o MLB Extra Innings Interactive, DirecTV

* Outstanding achievement in advanced media technology for creation of non-traditional programs or platforms:

o Disney.com DXD, Walt Disney Internet Group
o Nike +, R/GA
o MTV’s Virtual Laguna Beach, MTV Networks

The nominees for the broadband and personal TV category include:

* Development, productization and commercialization of interactive VOD two-way infrastructure and signaling, leading to large scale VOD implementations:

o Time Warner Cable
o Scientific Atlanta
o N2 Broadband

* Coaxial Cable Technology:

o AT&T

* Monitoring for compliance standards for ATSC & DVB transport streams:

o Rohde & Schwarz
o Tektronix
o Thomson
o Pixelmetrix

* Pioneering development of a fully monitored fiber optic-based digital network for occasional use and full-time video services with fully provisioned local video access at shared use sports venues:

o Vyvx Services

* ATSC Broadcast Transmission System RF Filters:

o ERI
o Dielectric
o Harris
o MCI

* Development and implementation of an integrated and portable IP-based live, edit and store-and-forward digital newsgathering system:

o CNN

Comcast rates going up again 
Copyright The San Francisco Chronicle
Ryan Kim, The San Francisco Chronicle

Beginning next month, Comcast customers who subscribe to stand-alone cable service will see their monthly bill increase by nearly 5 percent - the second rate boost this year.

The Bay Area's dominant cable provider, with 1.7 million subscribers locally, said the increase - which goes into effect Nov. 15 - is needed to pay for new products, improvements in customer service and upgrades to the regional infrastructure.

But Mindy Spatt, a spokeswoman for The Utility Reform Network, a consumer advocacy group in San Francisco, said Comcast's latest price increase is disappointing because it suggests that even with the appearance of rival AT&T service, Comcast is not willing to stabilize pricing to stay competitive. Instead, she said, Comcast appears to be putting more pressure on its stand-alone cable customers to buy a bundle of products.

"Consumers are constantly being sold this line of competition lowering rates, but it seems to be raising it," Spatt said. "It's a competition to see who can charge more, who can force them into more bundles."

Comcast has invested $663 million in the Bay Area since it began service in 2002 and has been on a hiring spree recently, adding almost 700 workers in the past two years, the company said.

"We believe that the price that goes into effect reflects the increased value in our service," said Andrew C. Johnson, Comcast's vice president of communications.

The increase is the second one this year, following a nearly 6 percent boost in January. It will not, however, affect customers taking Comcast's limited $99 "triple play" bundle of video, phone and broadband.

Subscribers taking basic cable also will not be affected.

But for regular users, who pay about $50 a month, the increase is just the latest in an almost annual ritual. Before January, Comcast raised rates by 6 percent each of the previous two years.

"I don't like the idea they keep jacking up the prices," said Donna Shore, a 77-year-old Rohnert Park resident on a fixed income. "I may have to cut back on my privileges, so to speak, and start renting Netflix."

Also on Nov. 15, Comcast is adding four high-definition channels: History, Home & Garden, Discovery and USA Network. And, the cable provider has built up its on-demand library to nearly 10,000 programs, most of which are free for digital subscribers.

While Comcast has been getting knocks for its increasing cable prices, its broadband pricing has stayed stable for five years. Its new voice service also is not being increased.

AT&T, which last year began offering a competing cable-like television service called U-Verse, has not raised rates on its service yet. Spokesman John Britton said AT&T has been signing up 8,000 new subscribers a week, in part due to Comcast's regular price increases.

Broadband Briefs for 10/17/07

* Midwest Tel Net selects TandbergTV for HDTV IPTV 
By Brian Santo

Ericsson’s Tandberg Television said Midwest Tel Net will use its iPlex video processing platform to deliver a number of IPTV channels in high definition (HD) video using MPEG-4 AVC video compression. The consortium of independent operating companies (IOCs) throughout southwest and central Wisconsin will also deploy TandbergTV’s RX1290 Multi-Format MPEG-4/MPEG-2 SD/HD Integrated Receiver Decoders.

* Psiber adds Wi-fi network planning tool
By Brian Santo

Psiber Data Systems is making available a new three-dimensional WiFi planning software tool that network designers can use to accurately lay out and optimize network coverage. RF3D WifiPlanner supports all IEEE 802.11 a/b/g networks and is independent of equipment manufacturers.

The design of a wireless network is performed in three steps: Import the floor plans of single or multi-level buildings in JPG, PNG and BMP formats, and rotate and scale the plans so that all floors line up properly. Then use the built-in libraries or custom design walls and floors to precisely match the buiding’s RF characteristics. Finally, place access points including antenna types from a predefined open library, which can also be supplemented by the user. The 3D computation engine immediately visualizes the resulting field strength, allowing the interactive optimization of quantity, location and configuration of individual access points before installing a single one, according to the company.

* Two engineers receive SCTE grants
 
By Mike Robuck

The SCTE Foundation announced today that it has bestowed two grants on SCTE members who will use the funds to continue their educational pursuits.

Chris Tate, a technical trainer for Cox in Oklahoma City, received a grant of approximately $12,000. The funds will help Tate to achieve his bachelor of science in organizational leadership from Southern Nazarene University in Bethany, Okla., later this year.

Tate’s co-worker, Chris Gutel, who is also a technical trainer with Cox in Oklahoma City, received a grant of approximately $3,500. Gutel is working on a bachelor’s in networking management degree. Gutel is also enrolled at Southern Nazarene University in Bethany, Okla.

The SCTE Foundation’s primary purpose is to provide expanded educational opportunities for SCTE members to assist them in accomplishing their professional development goals.

The SCTE Foundation Board of Directors recently approved both Tate and Gutel’s applications for major grants following preliminary approvals by the Foundation’s Major Grants Subcommittee and the Foundation’s Awards Committee.

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