THE GAO released a study yesterday finding that the FCC has “no comprehensive plan” in place for the upcoming transition to all-digital television. The report claims there is a risk of inadequate funding for converter boxes and potential failure to properly inform citizens of the end of analog. In related news, the NTIA announced that consumers can apply for converter coupons starting January 1st and will begin receiving them by February 17, 2008 – exactly one year before the analog TV spectrum is turned off. Major retailers have agreed to offer the converters, including Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Circuit City, Target, Sears, Radioshack and more.
NBC UNIVERSAL will distribute its content on the SanDisk Fanfare download service starting in January. The deal includes flexible pricing and packaging, some of the demands that drove NBC away from iTunes. NBC will also begin using PANDO‘s P2P technology to distribute HD video downloads via NBC Direct.
PENTHOUSE has acquired VARIOUS Inc. and its more than 25 adult-themed social-networking sites for around $500 million. Various’s sites include AdultFriendFinder.com, ItalianFriendFinder.com and BigChurch.com. Various claims to have 1.2 million paying subscribers across all sites. The combination of Penthouse and Various will generate $340 million in revenue for 2007.
AT&T said it will stop bundling DirecTV with its phone service in Q1 of 2008 but will continue bundling EchoStar service through the end of the year. The company also announced plans to have 1 million U-verse subscribers by the end of 2008 and to make the service available to 30 million homes by 2010. CEO Randall Stephenson said AT&T is not currently looking for acquisitions, quelling speculation that an EchoStar purchase was in the works.
MTV NETWORKS has formed Digital Fusion, a group that will help clients tap into social-networking, virtual worlds and other emerging media. DF will act as a one-stop shop for advertising across MTVN’s many online properties.
NATAS has been forced to cancel Broadband Emmy’s for comedy, drama and other categories. Arbitrators sided with ATAS, who felt that the NATAS Broadband Emmy’s were a violation of a decades-old agreement between the two parties. Both groups may continue to offer Broadband Emmy’s but only in the categories over which they hold offline jurisdiction.