Kennard to NCTA: Power Struggle Destructive

Power struggles among media companies can erode public and regulatory trust in the cable industry, <A HREF="http://www.fcc.gov/">Federal Communications Commission</A> chairman William Kennard warned attendees at the <A HREF="http://www.ncta.org/">National Cable Television Association</A>'s annual convention in New Orleans last week. Kennard referred specifically to the recent squabble between Disney Corporation and Time Warner, which led to a blackout of Disney's ABC network in key markets earlier this month. Such actions call into question the ability of the industry to police itself, Kennard told cable executives.

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Blockbuster, DirecTV Sign Sweetheart Deal

The business world has a strange way of making putative adversaries into the best of friends. <A HREF="http://www.blockbuster.com/">Blockbuster Inc.</A>, the nation's largest video rental chain, has struck a sweetheart deal with <A HREF="http://www.directv.com/">DirecTV</A>, the nation's largest direct-broadcast satellite service. The two businesses have long been viewed as competitors for the same customers.

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Gladiator Leads Early-May Box Office

It's been decades since Hollywood produced a topnotch Roman epic. A staple of the film industry through the mid-1960s, sword'n'sandal extravaganzas fell out of favor with both film studios and audiences with the cultural and political upheavals of the late 1960s.

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BellSouth to Launch Satellite-TV Service

The sky will become a bit more crowded next year as <A HREF="http://www.bellsouth.com/">BellSouth Corporation</A> debuts a new direct-broadcast satellite service. The Atlanta-based telecommunications company announced May 8 that it will launch the new service in 2001 in the hope of expanding its communications and programming services.

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New Home-Theater Products Coming from Mitsubishi, Hitachi, Sony

Bigger is better, according to <A HREF="http://www.hitachi.com/">Hitachi</A>. The Japanese manufacturing giant has announced a 65"-diagonal rear-projection HDTV, its display illuminated by a <A HREF="http://www.ti.com/">Texas Instruments</A> digital light processing (DLP) unit with 8" optics. DLP technology creates a high-definition image using almost one million micromirrors on a chip to switch red, green, and blue light to form an image. When incorporated into a television with an HDTV receiver, display of both HDTV and high-resolution computer graphics is possible without any of the normal compromises found in traditional display technology.

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CEA: Digital TV Sales Hit Record High

The month of March was the best ever for factory-to-dealer sales of digital television sets and displays, reported the <A HREF="http://www.cea.org/">Consumer Electronics Association</A> on April 27. Unit sales totaled 24,332&mdash;a 7% increase over February sales, and 343% over March 1999. Since the introduction of DTV in August 1998, a total of 202,586 DTV units has been sold to dealers, according to the CEA's latest figures.

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Tender Mercies Ambles onto DVD

R<I>obert Duvall, Tess Harper, Betty Buckley, Allan Hubbard, Wilford Brimley, Ellen Barkin. Directed by Bruce Beresford. Aspect ratios: 1.85:1 (widescreen), 16:9 (anamorphic). Dolby 2.0. 92 minutes. 1983. Republic Pictures/Artisan 11191. PG. $24.95.</I>

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Video-on-Demand Service Will Debut in Los Angeles

Video-on-demand (VOD) is coming soon to more than 1.2 million homes in Los Angeles, courtesy of <A HREF="http://www.chartercom.com/">Charter Communications, Inc.</A>, the fourth-largest cable operator in the US. Charter has completed an agreement with Redwood City, CA&ndash;based <A HREF="http://www.divatv.com/">DIVA Systems Corporation</A> to provide VOD software and hardware for customers in Long Beach, Pasadena, Alhambra, Monterey Park, Glendale, and Burbank.

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FCC Green-Lights Merger of Viacom & CBS

The <A HREF="http://www.fcc.gov/">Federal Communications Commission</A> has approved the merger of media conglomerate <A HREF="http://www.viacom.com/">Viacom Inc.</A> and <A HREF="http://www.cbs.com/">CBS Corporation</A>, one of the "Big Three" television networks. Viacom will acquire CBS in a stock swap; the resulting entity will have one year to unload enough stations to bring it into compliance with regulations limiting its share of the television viewing audience to 35% of the total market. Stations in Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas&ndash;Ft. Worth, Baltimore, and Sacramento may be sold to comply with the restriction. The approval was granted Tuesday, May 2.

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TV Guide Hooks Up with Video-on-Demand Provider SeaChange

Last week, <A HREF="http://www.tvguideinc.com"><I>TV Guide</I></A> announced that it has partnered with <A HREF="http://www.seachangeinternational.com">SeaChange International</A> to bring to market a version of the TV Guide Interactive electronic program guide with a video-on-demand (VOD) service. The companies say that the collaboration will combine the TV Guide Interactive application with SeaChange's ITV system, and that this is the first major deal for TV Guide Interactive in the VOD area and will be the market's first fully integrated interactive program guide/VOD offering.

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