Markey wants better CableCARDs; German MTV becoming a pay channel

> Massachusetts Congressman Ed Markey has urged the FCC to revise CableCARD rules to make the devices more "consumer friendly." This, he said, would include making the devices so easy to use that they can be installed by consumers. Story.

> Imagine the reaction this news would get in the U.S. The German version of MTV, cleverly named MTV Deutschland and a free channel since launch, will become a pay channel starting next year. Can't you just hear Dire Straits new tune, "I'll pay for MTV?" Story.

> If you think a pay-to-play MTV is scary, consider this even more frightening news: Ryan Seacrest is working with Creative Artists Agency and Anschutz Entertainment Group on a new cable channel. No joke. And there's even a Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA) connection since Seacrest often works with Comcast's E! network and "has a deal with Comcast Entertainment, which gets first look at all his projects," according to Forbes, which added "it would make sense that Comcast would get involved, though a source at Comcast says it's not even considering it right now." Story.

> Comcast, which pretty much has its plate full these days fending off satellite operators who want its Philadelphia sports programming and trying to convince the FCC to let it spend $30 billion or so for NBC Universal, has nothing on Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) when it comes to being busy. The on-the-surface Web search engine, which has been pushing hard to either (pick your source) destroy the cable industry or help it, should be offering up some pretty impressive results when it announces its earnings next week, analysts believe. News release.

> Speaking of competition, DirecTV (Nasdaq: DTV) has launched its Cinema Plus VoD service that offers more than 400 TV shows and movie titles to consumers with HD DVR boxes and an Internet connection. Story.

> There's no particular heavy-duty news relevance to this item, but for all you hippies out there (and you know who you are) here's a blast from the past and a golden oldie with a new age shine. Woodstock, N.Y. town board members are considering a 10-year franchise deal with Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC-WI) that would let the MSO extend service to "lightly populated areas of town." Like Yasgur's farm? Far out! Story.

And finally... Cox Communications has given Nelson Mower a neat title and serious responsibilities. The Atlanta-based MSO named Mower vice president of customer contact management responsible for "developing customer immersion strategies, identifying cost process improvements and leading key development initiatives based on customer requirements." They had us at customer contact management. Story.