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Cable News: Dec. 14

Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) is getting more interactive while Charter Communications Inc. continues to get faster. Also in today’s cable roundup: Viacom Inc. (NYSE: VIA) worries about Comcast-NBC merger, and Rocco Commisso’s attempt to take Mediacom Communications Corp. private has attracted some legal eagles.

  • Nearly 14 months after we first reported Comcast was testing an IP-based video product code named Excalibur, the Wall Street Journal says today that Comcast is testing IP-powered set-tops in Augusta, Ga., that could deliver a video service that "combines features of the Web with those of a digital video recorder." No word yet on the Web content Comcast is testing. Looks like Augusta is the system Comcast SVP Mark Hess referred to last month when he said the MSO was using one of its systems in the south as a "rapid deployment network" for new interactive TV services. (See Comcast Tests Broadband-Fed Xcalibur Service, Comcast Forges 'Excalibur' for IPTV, and Comcast Accelerates ITV Development.

  • A month after Rocco Commisso sweetened his offer to take Mediacom private for $8.75 per share, a law firm that specializes in class-action litigation sued Mediacom and its board. Levi & Lorskinsky LLP accused the MSO of issuing "materially false or misleading statements regarding the proposed acquisition," but the firm is still shopping for a lead plaintiff. (See CEO Offers $600M for Mediacom.)

  • Charter has expanded its "Ultra 60" (60Mbit/s downstream) Docsis 3.0 service to parts of Nebraska, Georgia, Wisconsin, Michigan, and South Carolina, according to subscribers posting messages on DSL Reports. (See Despite Sub Losses, Charter Increases Revenue.)

  • ESPN is picking up interactive TV and 3D technology, and the engineers that know how to use it, through a deal to buy PVI Virtual Media Services from Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC). Some of PVI’s technology was sold separately to an unidentified third party, Multichannel News reports .

  • Interesting to see media giant Viacom raising concerns about the impact that the Comcast-NBCU merger could have on "independent programmers." The Los Angeles Times notes that Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman sits on the board of the Tennis Channel, and that one of the motivations for Viacom’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) filing is that Comcast has yet to carry new premium channel Epix, which counts Viacom as an owner. (See EPIX Gains Traction With 'TV Everywhere' Model.)

    — Steve Donohue, Special to Light Reading Cable

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