News

Coda

12/14/2007 7:00 PM Eastern

TWC: No Holding Pattern Allowed

Time Warner Cable will head to court in Los Angeles this week, in hopes of reversing nearly $60,000 in fines for poor service by Redondo Beach, Calif.

Mike Webb, the city’s attorney, said the municipal standard demands phones be answered in 30 seconds, 90% of the time. Time Warner came closest in October, he said, meeting the standard 79.94% of the time. The rate was as low as 42% in October 2006.

Webb said the dispute is really procedural: in order to get its transfer from Adelphia Communications in August 2006, TWC was put on notice to cure call-answer-time violations by that operator dating to January 2006. The operator was fined $49,100 in July, for its own and Adelphia’s deficiencies; and another $12,200 in October.

Now, Time Warner disputes fines dating to the Adelphia era, and argues it should have a chance to air its grievances before the city council.

City staff rejected appeals this fall. Redondo Beach believes this is a continuing problem and that Time Warner was already on notice.

A California Superior Court judge will referee the dispute, holding the first hearing on Time Warner’s injunction request on Dec. 20.

— Linda Haugsted

Placing Chips on AT&’s U-verse

U-verse has been a slow starter, but AT&T’s not backing off the Internet Protocol TV strategy. CEO Randall Stephenson last week said the company expects to expand U-verse TV to 30 million customer locations by 2010 — more than five times its current reach.

AT&T’s doubling-down on U-verse led analysts to surmise that a widely rumored deal for either EchoStar Communications or DirecTV was off the table, at least for now. Meanwhile, AT&T said it would stop selling DirecTV service in the first quarter, an arrangement the telco inherited through its acquisition last year of BellSouth. Instead the telco will offer EchoStar’s Dish Network in all its regions through at least the end of 2008.

The satellite card will remain in the telco’s hand. The company will be “evaluating” deals with both DirecTV and EchoStar near the end of 2008, AT&T group president of telecom operations John Stankey said at the company’s analyst conference in New York, adding, “We can be successful with either one.”

— Todd Spangler

The Winner Is: Not Here

New York — Cable dominated the television nominations for the 2008 Golden Globe nominations announced Dec. 13, with 39 nominations for eight networks, compared to broadcast’s 20 nominations.

HBO tops all networks with 18 nominations. Showtime had six nominations; followed by FX with five.

Cable series led the “Best Drama” category with nods to HBO’s Big Love, FX’s Damages, AMC’s Mad Men and Showtime’s The Tudors.

Comedy nominees include Showtime’s Californication and HBO’s Entourage and Extras.

Besides who will win, the big question is who will show? The ceremony is set for Jan. 13, but members of the Screen Actors Guild have said they will honor the Writers Guild strike and may not participate in such ceremonies if the strike is still on.

MTV, I Want My Benefits

New York — MTV Networks, following protests last week by freelancers, retracted some of its proposed cutbacks on their benefits and set up a process to possibly convert temporary jobs to permanent positions.

The programming giant had come under attack by its permanent freelance and temporary workers when it tried to institute changes to their medical, dental and other benefits, in terms of when they would become eligible for coverage and what plans they could use.

Big Band Tunes Up For a Takeover?

Redwood City, Calif. — BigBand Networks’ board adopted change-of-control severance benefits for all senior executives. According to an 8-K filing last week, BigBand executive officers will get 12 months base salary and health-insurance benefits if they’re “terminated without cause” within six months after a takeover.

Industry analysts speculated the company may be ripe for acquisition after it reported third-quarter sales in October that were at least 29% lower than previous estimates. The miss caused its share price to plummet, and BigBand’s current market capitalization is around $330 million compared with more than $1 billion in May. BigBand declined to comment.

FX Goes 'Box’-ing

FX is launching its first branding campaign, with the tagline “There is No Box,” with a multimillion dollar flight of TV ads that includes a spot that will follow next year’s Super Bowl, officials said.

“News Corp. [which owns the cable network] is really going to get behind it,” said FX Networks president and general manager John Landgraf. “And News Corp., when it gets behind something, can put a lot of muscle behind it.”

The branding campaign kicks off this week during a Nip/Tuck episode, but FX has also purchased a 60-second spot that will air after the Fox broadcast network’s telecast of Super Bowl XLII on Feb. 3.

The FX spots will air on all News Corp. TV services, including the company’s national cable networks, as well as its online properties, Landgraf said.

— Linda Moss

March