Smart Grid DSL: Current and Qwest Team Up

smartgridcitylogoCompanies are building out the smart grid with various broadband technologies — cellular, WiFi, WiMAX — so why not good ol’ DSL? For non-network geeks, that’s the high-speed broadband that your phone company offers over copper wire. This morning, smart grid sensor and software maker Current is touting a new smart grid partnership with DSL provider Qwest (s Q).

Current largely provides the sensors that monitor different conditions on the electrical network, like voltage and current, as well as the software that processes the sensor information for the utility customer. While Current is mostly focused on the distribution portion of the grid, it can also provide communication gear and sensors for smart meters and in-home gateways, which it is doing for Colorado utility Xcel Energy for its SmartGridCity rollout. Because Current needs to get its information back to the utility, it works with a number of companies that provide that network connection. The latest is Qwest, which Current started partnering with, and is currently working with, for Xcel Energy’s SmartGridCity plan (Qwest provides phone and broadband service in Colorado). The buildout of SmartGridCity is supposed to be completed soon, followed by an assessment of the network’s benefits.
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Vid-Biz: Current, Upfronts, Van Natta

North Korea to Indict Current TV Journalists; state news agency says after an investigation of the two American reporters, N. Korean officials will indict them on “hostile acts,” if convicted, the two women could face five years in prison. (CBS News)
Analyst: TV Upfront Sales Could Be Down 15 Percent; impact could be felt by sites like Hulu as web ads are thrown in as sweeteners, pushing those prices down. (MediaMemo)
Former Facebook Exec to Head MySpace; Owen Van Natta to replace ousted Chris DeWolfe. (release)
Pirate Bay Retrial? Judge in the case is allegedly a member of two copyright organizations; if conflict of interest is formally found, trial could be sent back to district court. CNET)
Blu-ray’s Prospects Better Than You Think? Lower prices, the physicality of the medium and a scant number of people connecting TVs to the Internet (so far) could brighten the outlook for the high-definition format. (Gadgetwise)
CBS.com Integrates Facebook Connect; fans interacting with CSI or How I Met Your Mother can publish their actions back on the social network. (release)
GEMA and YouTube Talking Again; two parties resume negotiations to resolve royalty payment disputes. (The Hollywood Reporter)

Vid-Biz: Broadband, Cooliris, SoulWow

Congressman Planning Bill to Ban Metered Broadband; Rep. Eric Massa (D-NY) announced he’s firing up legislation to “prohibit unfair tiered price structures from Internet providers.” (Multichannel News)
Cooliris Raises $15.5 Million; investors in this round for the 3-D media wall company include Kleiner Perkins, DAG Ventures, the Westly Group and T-Mobile’s T-Ventures. (All Things D)
Catholic Church Goes for Funny with “SoulWow;” we confess, this ShamWow spoof is actually kinda good. (The Huffington Post)

Current Cancels $100M IPO; Al Gore-backed company decides the economy is just too rough right now, its IPO was announced in January. (peHUB) At that time we had some issues with how the media company called itself “profitable.”
Bargains are the Name of the Game at NAB; exhibitors to tout low-cost equipment for cash-strapped broadcasters. (TVWeek)
Jon Chu Creating New Web Series; The Legion of Extraordinary Dancers is a scripted tale about the formation of a dance crew produced with Agility Studios. (Variety)

Vid-Biz: Blockbuster, Rotten Tomatoes, Windows Media

Coulda Been: Blockbuster Was Going to Get Into the Operator Biz; former exec explains how the movie rental chain was going to roll out video over DSL in partnership with Verizon. (All Things D) And while Blockbuster endures a far less glamorous fate, Redbox moves into Manhattan. Company installs two DVD rental kiosks in the largest U.S. market, one in the Walgreen’s at the Empire State Building, and one at One Times Square. (Variety)

Rotten Tomatoes Show Debuts Tonight; movie reviews and info show will run on Current. (Digits Blog)

Windows Media Center Adds Sports; launching today on Windows Vista, Microsoft has content from Fox Sports, CBSSports.com, and MSNBC, including recaps of March Madness. (CNET)

Joost Partners with Netlog; agreement with Europe’s leading social networking service will let Netlog’s audience watch Joost content. (TechCrunch)

Less Than 4 Percent of U.S. Homes Not Ready for DTV Switch; since mid-February, more than 500,000 homes have prepared for the June 12 transition. (Nielsen Wire)

Ustream and Skyfire Enter into Promo Agreement; live-streaming company to endorse the mobile browser; Skyfire will make Ustream a featured bookmark. (jkOnTheRun)

Current Picks Rotten Tomatoes for TV Show

rotten_tomatoesRotten Tomatoes and Current are partnering to create a new TV series based on the famous vegetable-centric movie review site, the two companies announced today.

The Rotten Tomatoes Show on Current (yikes, that’s really an… unimaginative title) will be a half-hour show aired weekly on Current TV and distributed on Current.com and RottenTomatoes.com. From the press release:

In addition to the latest movie news and information, each irreverent episode will feature crowd-sourced rants and best-of lists influenced by the viewers. “The Rotten Tomatoes Show on Current” will also include the famous Tomatometer, bringing Rotten Tomatoes’ unique metric based on aggregated critic ratings to TV for the very first time.

There aren’t many details about the show yet, such as when it will launch or exactly how much interactivity will be a part of the show (maybe live Twittering?). But this move is in keeping with Current’s shift to a cross-platform strategy that will roll out early next year.

In November, Current went through a round of layoffs as part of this strategic move and said it was launching channels that would have both a TV show and a web presence. The company is reportedly moving away from the shorter-form “pod” programming to more traditional half-hour shows.

Wonder how this one will rate.

Ninja Tops iTunes Podcast List (Again)

Apple (s AAPL) released the iTunes top-seller and best-of lists for 2008 this week, and Ask A Ninja was once again took top honors on the “Classics” Video Podcast list. On the more traditional media side, Gossip Girl was the top-selling TV season on iTunes while The Dark Knight (which hasn’t even been released yet on iTunes) came in at No. 1 on downloaded movie chart.

Apple doesn’t spell out whether the video podcast list is editorially created or based on hard numbers, but either way, new media shows are well represented on both the 2008 and Classics video podcast lists. Making the cut this year are:

2008

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Current Media Lays Off 60

Current Media, the social media cable channel, made layoffs today, cutting 30 employees and moving 30 more employees to new positions, ending up with a total staff of 410.
The company attributed the staffing adjustments to a new cross-platform programming strategy that will debut early next year. The channels, which will include news, comedy, music and technology, will each have both a TV show and a web presence. In the past, Current’s web and TV projects and their overlaps had been more scattershot (and real gems like Sarah Haskins and Brett Erlich seemed to get a bit lost).
According to a report on BNET, “As part of the impending transition at Current TV, one source says the company is going to drop its shorter (user-generated content) videos in favor of the more traditional 30-minute programs that have long dominated television programming across all channels.”
San Francisco-based Current said in a statement sent via email, “[T]hese changes enable Current Media to reduce its cost structure, thereby assuring that it will be comfortably profitable in 2009 regardless of the depth and length of the recession.”
Other companies in the online video space that have recently cut staff include BitTorrent, Veoh, Spot Runner, and many more. Layoffs have also hit plenty of traditional media companies.

Vid-Biz: Jokes.com, Digg, Babelgum

Comedy Central to Relaunch Jokes.com; site will feature an extensive library of clips from the network’s stand-up archive. (Broadcasting & Cable)
Kevin Rose to Interview Al Gore; will ask questions from the Digg community as part of the Digg Dialogg series. (Digg Blog)
Babelgum COO Leaves Company; Michael O’Callaghan departs from the P2P online TV service, company has changed CEO, CTO and COO in the last 13 months. (paidContent)
Circuit City Shuttering 155 Stores; number represents 20 percent of its American stores as the company tries to return to profitability. (The New York Times)
Hitachi to Use Vidyo Technology; telepresence technology will deliver multipoint, HD-quality video conferencing over converged IP networks. (release)
Adap.tv Adds DoubleClick DART and Microsoft Atlas AdManager Functionality; advertising platform now lets publishers sell and serve their own video ad campaigns through these services. (release)
Can Western Digital Succeed Where Sansa TV Failed? New set-top box is a hard drive that you can use to transfer media from your PC to your TV. (VentureBeat)

Vid-Biz: PPS.tv, DVDs, SAG

PPS.tv Gets $20 Million; Chinese video site gets third round, led by LB Investment. (paidContent)
DVD Biz Had Modest Drop in Q3; while sales and rentals dipped, Blu-ray got a boost and could help the industry hit break-even with 2007. (Video Business)
SAG Requests Federal Mediator; AMPTP holding firm on its offer, so the actors’ union is asking for the feds to step in. (Deadline Hollywood Daily)
Palin Boosts SNL to Highest Ratings in 14 Years; more than 14 million viewers tuned in to “Caribou Barbie’s” appearance. (TV Decoder) (Heck, we stayed up to watch too)
Current and RooftopComedy Sign Syndication Deal; agreement will put stand-up and sketch comedy across Current’s TV channel and web site. (Multichannel News)

Tweet @Obama and @McCain During Debate

Instead of just detailing mundane thoughts on everyday moments of their lives, Twitter users will be able to have their political opinions featured as part of the upcoming presidential debates on both C-SPAN and Current.