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Monthly Archives: January 2013

Time Warner Cable Bans Gun Ads

According to CBS New York, Time Warner Cable, one of the major cable television providers in the area, as well as across the United States, is banning some ads featuring guns in the wake of the Newtown school massacre.

More from CBS New York:

“We’ve created a policy that effectively bans visual images of automatic weapons and visual images of weapons pointed at people,” company spokesman Alex Dudley told WCBS 880 reporter Monica Miller on Friday.

“We felt that this, at this time, particularly in the wake of some of the recent incidents, that this was a policy that we felt strongly about,” he said.

He said the majority of ads they sell nationwide are to local businesses that buy blocks of time.

“Some of these ads could end up on family programming, especially programming geared towards children,” he said.

“If a pawn shop submits an ad that has a picture of an automatic weapon, we don’t say to the pawn shop, ‘You can’t air your ad.’ We ask if they would like us to re-edit the ad,” he added.

He said some companies have concerns about the new policy.

“But I think we’ve been able to, in most cases, accommodate advertisements that meet the policy, yet effectively advertise the businesses,” he said.

The policy has yet to make its way to other cable providers, but it is likely that other providers in the area near Newtown, Connecticut and New York will follow suit. It is less likely that providers more centered in the middle of the country and the South and Texas will do the same, as attitudes towards gun control are different there.

There also has not been a certified connection between seeing guns on television and later acts of violence; it’s something that’s more assumed than proven. But hopefully Time Warner Cable is doing this for the right reasons.

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Cable TV Networks Snapping Up Sundance Documentaries

The Sundance Film Festival, held each year in Park City, Utah, is a place for unrecognized and independent filmmakers to get their work recognized and possibly even picked up for distribution. In the past, such films were picked up by studio distributors for theatrical release, and while that is still the case for many films, cable television is getting into the game as well, particularly with documentaries screened at the festival.

From Multichannel News, here are some of the films picked up by cable TV channels from this month’s festival:

CNN Films and Magnolia Pictures partnered to acquire the U.S. rights to director Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s whale-themed documentary Blackfish at the festival, which runs from Jan. 17 to 27 in Utah and spotlights top independently-produced films and documentaries.

Blackfish traces a 39-year history of killer whales in captivity leading up to a 2010 incident where an experienced Sea World trainer was killed by the 12,000-pound whale, according to the news network. Magnolia plans a summer theatrical release for the doc, while CNN plans to air it on the network later this year.

HBO Documentary Films has acquired the U.S. television rights to the standout documentary Pussy Riot—A Punk Prayer, which chronicles the recent arrest and imprisonment band members of the rock group Pussy Riot in Russia, said network officials.

Showtime also tapped Sundance for a music-themed documentary, History Of The Eagles (pictured above), a two-part doc featuring the pop/rock group, according to the network. It’s slated to air on the premium channel for two hours on Friday, Feb. 15, and a remaining hour on Saturday, Feb. 16, both at 8 p.m. ET/PT.

IFC Films purchased the North American rights to The Look of Love, which follows the life of British adult magazine publisher Paul Raymond. In addition, IFC’s Sundance Selects subsidiary purchased the Sundance documentaries The Summit and Dirty Wars, according to the Los Angeles Times.

All of these channels are available from Charter Communications and DIRECTV.

Cuba Now Connected to High Speed Internet

On January 25, Cuba became connected to the global internet for the first time, according to a report from UPI. The connection was confirmed by Cuba’s state telecommunications company, Etecsa.

More information from the UPI report:

A fiber-optic cable connecting Cuba to the Internet via Venezuela was completed in February 2011, but testing of the line only began this month, the BBC reported.

Government and research institutions are expected to be the first to make use of the $70 million connection; most Cubans currently have to avail themselves of slow and costly satellite services to go online.

That may be the status quo for some time, as Etecsa said high-speed browsing is unlikely to become widely accessible for some time.

Cuba’s infrastructure needs building up, it said, so that Internet access could be offered “gradually” and for “social purposes.”

The high-speed Alba-1 cable is a joint venture between the state-owned telecommunications entities of Venezuela and Cuba, with Cuba saying the U.S. trade embargo prevented a link-up to existing American underwater cables.

The trade embargo is just one reason that Cuba has not had access to high speed internet. As a tightly controlled country, bringing high speed internet in without means of heavy state control was long a concern. As the report says, the country has been connected via Venezuela since 2011, but much of the time spent perfecting the connection was likely to ensure that Cuban state media would be able to control what information could come in and out of the country.

High speed internet, no matter how controlled, will bring new freedoms. In the United States, as much as many would not like to think so, there are controls on the high speed internet available to the public, but information gained is massive. Hopefully the same will be true for the people of Cuba.

AT&T: We Will Credit U-Verse Subscribers Affected by Outage

According to Multichannel News, AT&T U-Verse suffered an outage that knocked out cable TV and high speed internet service to around 6,000 subscribers in ten states. The outage resulted from a critical server failure; as a result, AT&T will extend credits to subscribers affected by the outage. The issue affected fewer than one percent of U-Verse subscribers.

More from Multichannel News:

“We expect the remaining customer issues will be resolved this morning [Jan 25, 2013],” AT&T said in a statement. “We will provide a credit to customers who were affected. We know our customers count on their U-verse service and we apologize for the inconvenience.”

U-verse customers reported outages and sporadic problems starting Monday, Jan. 21, spanning markets in multiple states in the Southeast and Southwest including Texas, Florida, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Kentucky, Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama and Louisiana.

The issue ultimately affected less than 1% of U-verse subscribers, according to AT&T. As of the end of the third quarter of 2012, the telco had 7.4 million total U-verse subscribers (TV and high-speed Internet). The company is scheduled to report Q4 results after market close Thursday.

On Wednesday, an AT&T support representative posted in the telco’s online forum, “At this time, we’ve identified an issue with a server that supports U-verse. Some impacted customers may be able to restore service by powering down and restarting their Residential Gateway.”

The issue was related to “a software upgrade,” according to a post on the official U-verse Twitter account.

AT&T did not provide additional details on what the specific problem was, but reports suggested the outages stemmed from a Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) server failure. DHCP servers assign IP addresses to client devices that connect to a network.

According to comments posted on AT&T’s message boards, some U-verse customers lost service while neighbors with U-verse remained online.

Customers frustrated with AT&T U-Verse may want to consider other cable TV, satellite TV, or high speed internet providers.

Cable TV Management Software Provider Purchased by SintecMedia

According to a report from Multichannel News, the leading source of information for the cable television and satellite television trade, SintecMedia has acquired Argo Systems, a company that sells software to cable networks and pay TV operators for managing content distribution deals.

Here is more information from Multichannel News:

Argo Systems’ customers include Comcast, Fox Cable Networks, Suddenlink Communications, AMC Networks, NBCUniversal, BBC America and A+E Networks UK. The Atlanta-based company says its software is used by more than 300 cable networks and operators worldwide.

For cable networks, Argo Systems’ Medea software provides a way to track affiliate revenue and distribution deals. On the other side of the chain, the company’s Nestor suite of applications lets pay TV operators manage programming contracts, budget and automate payments.

“SintecMedia’s acquisition of Argo Systems will further augment our local activities in the North American cable television and MSO markets,” SintecMedia CEO Amotz Yarden said in announcing the acquisition. “Argo Systems will increase SintecMedia’s footprint and capabilities, boost our U.S. presence in terms of local support including software engineers, technicians as well as other professionals and delivery resources that will enable us to supply a greater array of broadcast and digital media solutions.”

Added Argo Systems president Doug Calahan, “Merging with SintecMedia is a testament to our solutions’ strengths, opens new international markets and spurs further growth in North America.”

Privately held SintecMedia has 300 employees with offices in New York, Denver, London and Jerusalem, Israel. The company is backed by private equity firm Riverwood Capital. According to SintecMedia, 50 employees from Argo and another 40 from StorerTV are joining the company.

SintecMedia’s flagship OnAir software combines traffic, sales and programming management features for broadcasters. North American clients include NBCUniversal, ABC, CBC Canada and Televisa Mexico.

Argo was represented in the transaction by DecisionPoint, a mergers and acquisition advisor to middle-market technology companies.

More information as it becomes available from the TV, Internet and Phone Blog.

Fox Sports Midwest: Record Cable TV Ratings for Hockey

Now that the NHL lockout has ended, and the league has returned to action for a shortened 48-game season, many wondered whether or not the fans would come back, or if they would hold the lockout against the league by protesting. What has been seen so far is that hockey fans can’t stay away from the NHL, as much as they might like, as indicated by record ratings for a number of regional cable networks for hockey broadcasts, including Fox Sports Midwest, home of the St. Louis Blues.

Here is some more information from St. Louis Game Time:

People on the East Coast that think that St. Louis isn’t a hockey town are in for a very, very rude awakening today.

This isn’t exactly new — in 2010 and 2011 the Blues finished top five in market share ratings among NHL cities (I still can’t find data for 2012, but I assume that it’s close to the same). To look at this season’s TV viewing numbers, it appears that the Blues are en route for another top five finish.

Saturday night’s opener against the Detroit Red Wings was the highest rated Blues opener broadcast on FoxSports Midwest, pulling a 6.0 share, which makes it the highest rated prime-time program in St. Louis that day. Monday evening’s shootout win over the Nashville Predators did even better: it pulled a 7.4 rating, making it the highest rated regular season game ever. It topped out at 9.1 rating during the shootout, meaning 113,000 households were tuned in to see T.J. Oshie and Alex Steen rip goals past Pekka Rinne.

So, no, these aren’t the number of households you’ll see in Pittsburgh, or Chicago, or Philadelphia, or New York. St. Louis isn’t the same market size as those markets — but if you’re talking percentages instead of actual people, St. Louis can hang with the big boys.

Check back often for more news on cable TV ratings, high speed internet developments, and more at the TV, Internet and Phone Blog.

Nearly 99 Percent of Washington Residents Have Access to High Speed Internet

According to MYNorthwest.com, as much as 99 percent of the state of Washington’s residents has access to high speed internet, with access to wired or wireless broadband constantly improving. As a result, up to 83 percent of the population lives in a household with internet access.

Here is more information from MYNorthwest.com:

The public and private sectors get credit for improving Washington’s standing to 10th in the nation for access to 3 Mbps bandwidth.

“In the last year, we’ve seen an increase in the number of subscribers, we’ve seen an increase in our ranking nationally in terms of the percentage of the population that has access to broadband services, we’re climbing and doing a good deal better,” said Will Saunders, director of the Broadband Office at the state Department of Commerce.

The report also shows that almost 99 percent of Washington residents live in areas where broadband is available and 83 percent of the state population lives in households with Internet access.

“I think we need to apply it to helping people find jobs in the digital economy, grow their businesses in this country and outside this country and allow Washington to continue to be a leader on innovation,” said Saunders.

The annual broadband report shows gross income in Washington from shopping on-line topped $3 billion in 2011.

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LA Dodgers Leaning Toward Time Warner Cable Deal

Time Warner Cable is positioning itself to become the powerhouse for cable sports in the Los Angeles, CA area. Already, Time Warner has Los Angeles Lakers basketball on its Time Warner SportsNet channel, forcing other cable providers to pay Time Warner for the rights to that channel to give subscribers Lakers games. Now, the other big team in town, the Los Angeles Dodgers, is leaning towards going with Time Warner for its next cable television deal.

Here’s more from the Los Angeles Times:

With the Dodgers expected to sign the most lucrative local television contract in baseball history – perhaps worth close to $7 billion – the sides are analyzing whether the team’s revenue-sharing bill should be closer to $1 billion or $2 billion.

Mark Walter, the Dodgers’ controlling owner, and MLB Executive Vice President Rob Manfred discussed the issue at the owners’ meetings in Arizona last week. Walter did not respond to several messages; Manfred declined to comment.

The Dodgers would prefer to resolve the matter with MLB rather than refer it to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, which is empowered to settle any disputes as part of the settlement between the league and former owner Frank McCourt.

The Dodgers’ current contract with Fox expires after the 2013 season. The team had discussed a new deal with Fox last fall, worth at least $6 billion over 25 years. However, as MLB and the Dodgers discussed their differences over the revenue-sharing issue, the Fox exclusive negotiating window expired, enabling Time Warner to initiate negotiations with the team.

Fox Sports launched a second local cable channel – now called Prime Ticket – to carry the Dodgers in 1997. Fox Sports previously lost the Lakers to Time Warner Cable, and the departure of the Dodgers would leave Fox with the Angels, Clippers, Ducks and Kings as the anchor teams for two channels.

More on this story as it develops at the TV, Internet and Phone Blog.

Big Cable TV Ratings for Oprah’s Lance Armstrong Interview

As many as 3.2 million viewers turned to Oprah Winfrey’s OWN cable TV network for her interview with Lance Armstrong this past Thursday. It is the second highest-rated telecast for the network, and the highest-rated weekly telecast for OWN in the key 25-54 demographic.

More on the ratings and the interview itself from the Huffington Post:

All eyes were on Oprah and Armstrong this past week, as news that he confessed to using performance-enhancing drugs leaked. Oprah said that the interview was “the biggest” of her career, and was widely praised for her questioning.

Thursday’s interview — which brought in premiums for advertising time and put OWN in the limelight — is the latest sign that the network is finally gaining traction. Oprah declared that OWN had finally “made the pivot” in September, after it initially struggling to gain traction and several big shake-ups in programming.

Oprah’s network has had trouble gaining traction since Oprah’s retirement from the talk show circuit, with the only major blockbuster ratings coming from this Oprah interview with Lance Armstrong, and an interview between Oprah and Whitney Houston’s family following the singer’s tragic death. Oprah came under fire about a year ago for tweeting to her followers to watch the network, with some pundits accusing her of attempting to juke the ratings system during sweeps periods.

Still, this major interview shows that Oprah is still a heavyweight. There are any number of outlets Lance Armstrong could have chosen for his confessional interview, but it’s obvious he felt that Oprah would be the best option for him to get the word out to a sympathetic audience, instead of going with ESPN or another sports network where the audience would still likely be predominantly male.

Keep following the TV, Internet and Phone Blog for news on cable television ratings and more.

Evanston, IL Wins High Speed Internet Grant

According to Evanston Now, a local news website, Governor Pat Quinn of Illinois is scheduled to announce at a news conference today that a $1 million Illinois Gigabit Communities Challenge grant has been given to the city of Evanston and to Northwestern University, which sits inside the Evanston borders.

Here is more information from Evanston Now:

The program, which has already awarded grants for some south-side neighborhoods in Chicago and to the City of Aurora, is designed to stimulate broader deployment of ultra-high speed internet connections across the state. A gigabit connection would be roughly 100 times faster than the typical broadband internet connection now commonly available.

The grant award to Evanston is intended to focus on the Chicago Avenue corridor, and the announcement is to be made at 10:30 a.m. at the new library branch at 900 Chicago Ave. at Main Street.

The city has proposed creating a tax increment financing district to spur development in the Chicago-Main commercial district — including an office building proposed for the southeast corner of the intersection, which presumably would be more attractive to potential tenants with the availability of the gigabit internet connection.

The City Council Monday night postponed for two weeks a final vote on approving the TIF district.

Evanston was one of over 40 communities that applied for the grant program.

The program is expected to make use of existing fiber optic cable conduits owned by the university and the city will provide access to public rights-of-way for the cable without imposing its usual easement charges.

The Illinois Gigabit Communities Challenge is just one of many high speed internet programs state and federal government have set forth to help underserved communities take advantage of high speed internet. Check back often for more coverage of these events at the TV, Internet and Phone Blog.