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The Friday Five

Jeff Baumgartner
9/26/2008

4:30 PM -- Here's our quasi-weekly look at a handful of other stuff that happened in the world of cable this week that bears sharing or repeating:

  • Docsis 3.0 a toothless telco threat? -- Just as you might expect a cable guy to pooh-pooh the threat of fiber-to-the-home (FTTH), a cable guy-turned-FTTH-guy is downplaying the peril Docsis 3.0 will place on the telcos.

    Jim Farmer, a top-notch engineer late of two former cable vendor giants (Scientific Atlanta and Antec), told the Fiber-to-the-Home Conference crowd in Nashville this week that cable's new channel-bonded platform "is not an FTTH-killer, though it may help [cable operators] in some cases. I think it will be a more limited threat than people think."

    Considering that Farmer has been developing and pitching FTTH gear under the Wave7 Optics (now part of Enablence Technologies Inc. (Toronto: ENA)) banner since its founding in 2000, it's not surprising to hear he's not singing the praises of cable technology anymore. (See Enablence Acquires Wave7.) And we doubt his opinion will prevent Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) from moving ahead with a plan to wire up all its systems for Docsis 3.0 by mid-2010, or keep Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) from mothballing it s more "surgical" deployment strategy. (See Comcast Enters the Wideband Era and 'Surgical' Strikes .)

  • Still not cable's favorite Martin -- The cable industry is predictably upset with a proposal from Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Kevin Martin that would force MSOs to carry so-called "low-power" TV stations, of which there are more than 550 nationwide. Martin reportedly wants the Commission to vote on the first phase of a plan during a public meeting scheduled for Oct. 15. About 43 percent of Class A stations are Spanish-language broadcasters, Multichannel News said, citing FCC data.

    An National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) spokesman countered that such a requirement "would violate the constitution and Congress' intent while jeopardizing the wide diversity of programming that is already available on cable systems nationwide."

  • Row, row, row your boat -- Canoe Ventures LLC, the advanced ad consortium led by some of the nation's largest U.S. MSOs, is still paddling along in relative stealth mode, but its recently named CEO, David Verklin, tells tells Paid Content this week that its first product, dubbed "Creative Versioning," will be available in about four months. Its targeted/addressable ad system will be fueled by cable's geographic and demographic data. He also views Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) as a potential partner.

  • Big dogs throw in on opting-in -- And speaking of ad-targeting -- in the Web world, anyway -- Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) (one of the lead oars in the Canoe Ventures initiative), along with fellow big dogs Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) and AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) testified to Congress yesterday that they don't presently deliver ads based on Internet usage habits, but preached self-governing policies and a customer opt-in approach over regulated, government interaction... should they adopt such services down the road.

    They testified as Congress turns up the heat on NebuAd Inc. , whose system allegedly tracked user behavior without user consent. Charter Communications Inc. and several other ISPs have since scuttled plans involving NebuAd in the wake of the controversy.

  • Keeping an eye on the Dolans -- Gamco Investors Inc. fired another warning shot at Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC) Thursday, noting in a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing that it's considering nominating people for the MSO's board of directors. The firm owns about 8.5 percent of Cablevision and has been pushing company to boost its stock via stock buy backs and shed some assets.

    For its part, Cablevision has already announced plans to boost value through quarterly dividends and stock buybacks. It's also exploring the spinning off of some non-core assets, with some bets already being placed on the possibility that its programming arm, Rainbow Media LLC, would be among those most likely to be put on the block. (See Cablevision Roadshow Update, Cablevision Does Dividends, and Cablevision Spinning Options .)

Until next week…

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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