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Cable Catchup

11:50 AM -- I'm back in the saddle today after a long weekend away, so here's a quick roundup of cable-related stuff that happened during my absence:

  • Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) was in a D.C. court fighting the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) 's decision to re-impose a rule that prevents U.S. cable MSOs from owning 30 percent or more of the pay-TV universe. The FCC has previously argued that the cap keeps cable power over budding programmers seeking carriage in check. Comcast, which is arguing that the ruling is unconstitutional, is the only MSO anywhere near the cap. In 2007, when the FCC re-voted on the matter, Comcast had about 27 percent of the market, ruling out any sizeable acquisitions. (See FCC Caps Cable .)

  • Charter Communications Inc. may have been able to get certain bondholders to accept a pre-arranged bankruptcy that aims to shed $8 billion from the MSO's massive debt load, but the road since then has been less than smooth. (See Charter's Next Chapter and Charter Turns to Chapter 11.)

    The Associated Press reports that the U.S. Trustee overseeing the matter is critical of the MSO's plan to exempt former execs, directors, and other affiliated parties from potential lawsuits tied to securities law violations. There's also some static that Charter chairman Paul Allen had a conflict of interest in developing the bankruptcy plan, which will allow Allen to retain 35 percent voting in the company after it emerges from bankruptcy. AP says a number of secured lenders are also howling about the MSO's restructuring plan.

  • The big rumor flying around late last week held that Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) is among those interested in acquiring struggling broadband video startup Joost , which is reportedly shopping itself around to cable and satcos.

    No one has substantiated all this, mind you, but it's not the most outlandish thing I've heard, since TWC has already spelled out that it's interested in pursuing an Internet-fed video service that complements its more traditional video subscription model. Save for the negotiations with programmers, Comcast is pretty much all set with Fancast, so perhaps Joost can give Time Warner a quick Internet video fix? (See Cable Web TV: Results May Vary .)

  • All aboard the Enhanced TV Train! CableLabs last week launched the "alpha" version of an ETV test suite to support "user agent" development, referring to the piece of Enhanced TV Binary Interchange Format (EBIF) code that's required to reside inside cable set-tops. (See CableLabs Launches ETV Test Suite.)

    The test suite comprises EBIF apps, a test plan, and test controller software. That should be helpful, considering there are seven or so EBIF user agents/players on the market these days, from the likes of Zodiac Interactive , BIAP Systems Inc. , Comcast's TVWorks LLC , Navic Networks (now part of Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT)), and even Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ). (See TV Apps Teams Face Cable Conundrum.)

    Now we're just curious to know when the cable industry will unveil the new consumer-facing brand for EBIF, as they did with the OpenCable Platform and tru2way in January 2008. "Cable-Plus," anyone?


— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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