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Cable ITV Watch: Comcast, NBC Gear for a Grillin'

While execs at Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) and NBC Universal prepare to tell the feds why owning both the pipe and the content is good for the world, Discovery Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: DISCA, DISCB, DISCK) may have landed a name for its coming 3D channel, and a batch of interactive TV players are about to rendezvous at CableLabs to demonstrate that they can play nice-nice.

Here's some news of note from the realm of broadband content and ITV:

  • Expect Brian Roberts and Jeff Zucker to answer some pointed questions February 4, when the Senate Judiciary Committee's antitrust subcommittee conducts the first hearing on the proposed Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK)/NBC Universal deal. Expect a few questions on how this deal could affect the future of Hulu LLC , which is reportedly considering pay models, including a subscription service that would run $5 per month. You can watch the sparks fly right here. (See Senate Group to Vet Comcast-NBCU Deal.)

  • "3DNet" might be the totally unoriginal name for the 3DTV network Discovery, Sony Corp. of America , and IMAX Corp. intend to launch next year. According to Broadcasting & Cable, Discovery filed to trademark that name and even created a new logo to go with it. (See Discovery, Sony, IMAX Team for 3DTV and Discovery Prez: New 3D Net Will Need 6MHz .)

  • Hat tip to the OCAP/EBIF Developer Network (OEDN) for pointing out that the next Enhanced TV (ETV) interop at CableLabs is scheduled for Feb. 22-26, 2010.

    That round will attempt to see how well a variety of ETV applications and "user agents" -- the Enhanced TV Binary Interchange Format (EBIF) "player" that goes inside set-tops -- run when deployed to a wide range of set-top box models. It's a noble goal, but one that's been difficult to achieve during the early days of EBIF. (See Zodiac Expands EBIF Support and TV Apps Teams Face Cable Conundrum.)

    Responses to the CableLabs RFI are due Friday, Jan. 29. So, let's get to work, people.

  • The threat posed by "cord-cutting" may be greater than some (i.e., cable MSOs) are giving it credit for, suggests The Diffusion Group (TDG).

    Cord-cutting is the notion that consumers will get rid of their traditional cable TV subscriptions and use broadband and over-the-air digital TV to fulfill all their video needs. Although there's little evidence that it is anything but a limited phenomenon at this juncture, TDG thinks a [ed. note: cliché alert!] "perfect storm" is underway that could take it closer to the mainstream. Among the elements driving this tempest of change: testy retransmission negotiations, network neutrality disputes, and, of course, a growing variety of TV alternatives.

    — Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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