Cable Catchup

5:55 PM -- Weekend's almost here, so time to catch up on some recent cable-related news...
  • Poppin' U-verse: DSL Reports says it's received complaints from AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) U-verse users about ads popping up on their TV screens touting new service bundles coupled with free pizza offers. AT&T told the site that these aren't paid ads, but messages that fill customers in on new U-verse offers. Insight chief Michael Willner chimed in about this on his blog. "Now, if you're an AT&T U-Verse customer, you may need to buy a pop-up blocker for your television," he wrote, noting that pop-up ads on TV are not in any of Insight's plans. But throwing rocks at the AT&T ads might not be too wise at this juncture. In fact, it could come back to haunt. One wonders how cable customers will react when MSOs start hitting them with interactive Enhanced TV Binary Interchange Format (EBIF) ads and applications, which are like pop-ups, too. Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) COO Steve Burke predicted recently that the Canoe Ventures LLC MSO partners (Insight's not one of them) should have EBIF enabled in 25 million homes by the fourth quarter of this year. (See Canoe Preps ITV Ad 'Template' , Canoe Shelves Targeted Ad Product, and Canoe Rows Toward Enhanced TV .)
  • More small ball for Docsis 3.0: Following in the footsteps of broad rollouts by Comcast, some Tier 2 MSOs are expanding their wideband ambitions too. Midcontinent Communications (Midco) is launching a 50-Mbit/s (downstream) by 5-Mbit/s (upstream) service in its Pierre and Ft. Pierre, S.D., systems on Monday, marking the "second stage" of the MSO's D3 deployment. It launched D3 in June in Sioux Falls, S.D., and West Fargo, N.D. (See MidCo Expands Wideband Rollout and Midco Picks Ubee for Wideband Modems.) Suddenlink Communications also got into the act this week, expanding Docsis 3.0 into its Georgetown, Lubbock, and Midland, Texas, systems. Suddenlink , which has D3 available to about 8 percent of its 1.3 million customer base, is starting off with a 20-Mbit/s downstream wideband tier, while most of its U.S. MSO counterparts have started off with 50 Mbit/s or more. Suddenlink is powering the D3 rollout with Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) cable modem termination systems (CMTSs) and a "variety of modems at this point," according to a spokesman.
  • 'Set-back' tests: Remember that tru2way-certified "set-back" set-top from Advanced Digital Broadcast (ADB) that could play a part in Sony Corp. (NYSE: SNE)'s retail cable strategy? We're told that Comcast is still testing it in the lab, though the MSO continues to show it off at the "Sony Style Comcast Labs" store at the MSO headquarters building in Philly. (See Sony-Comcast Store Has Tru2way 'Set-Back' Box and Sony Drives ADB's Set-Back.)
  • Out of demand: Multichannel News reports that In Demand LLC CEO Rob Jacobson has left after 10 years at the helm of the MSO-backed pay-per-view and video-on-demand consortium. With Jacobson's contract at an end, Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) SVP of video product strategy Bob Benya is stepping in as the interim chief as a permanent successor is sought.
  • D3 at retail: You might recall that Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) began selling wideband modems at retail stores earlier this year. Well, according to an update on the Moto blog, that effort's been going hunky freakin' dory so far. (See For Sale: Wideband Gear .) Other than some installation-related comments, most of the posted feedback from wideband customers seems to speak more to the performance of the modems rather than the retail experience, though.
— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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