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Business Briefing

November 26, 2009

Public is asked to vote on cable-TV fee hikes

Time Warner Cable Inc. is asking the public for help as it tries to curtail increases in the programming fees it has to pay to carry cable channels and broadcast stations on its systems.

The nation's second-largest cable TV operator unveiled an advertising campaign asking cable subscribers to vote online on whether it should "roll over" or "get tough" in negotiations over the fees.

Time Warner Cable said it would use the results of the survey in upcoming contract renewal talks.

Deals expiring this year include those with the Weather Channel; certain News Corp. Fox stations and FX cable channel; several Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc.'s TV stations; and some cable channels of Scripps Networks Interactive Inc., which owns Food Network and HGTV.

It's not clear whether the public response will be any good when past ads accusing programmers of price-gouging haven't stopped fee increases.


Lawsuit over XM device is dropped

Warner Music Group and Sony Corp. music-publishing units dropped a copyright-infringement lawsuit against XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc. over a product that allows XM listeners to record and store songs.

The companies' joint request to dismiss the claims, which didn't give a reason, was approved by U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan in New York. Music publisher EMI Group Ltd. reached a settlement in the same case in June 2008.

At the heart of the dispute is XM's portable Pioneer Inno satellite receiver, which allows users to download permanent libraries of songs. The labels contend that because XM subscribers are able to store songs, they will be less likely to buy them.

Vivendi's Universal Music Group became the first recording company to settle a lawsuit against XM over the recording device. Warner Music Group in December 2007 settled a related lawsuit against Washington-based XM.


AIG sets execs' stock salaries

American International Group Inc. Chief Financial Officer David Herzog will get an annual stock salary of $3.1 million and be eligible for as much as $833,333 in incentive pay under a plan approved by the U.S. government.

The incentive for 2009 performance is payable in restricted shares, New York-based AIG said in a regulatory filing. Kristian Moor, who heads the insurer's property-casualty business, will get a stock salary of $4.7 million and up to $2 million in incentive awards.

AIG must get approval of compensation plans for its top executives from the Obama administration's pay master, Kenneth Feinberg, after taking a bailout from the U.S. government valued at $182.3 billion.


Profit doubles for retailer J. Crew

J.Crew Group Inc., the U.S. clothing retailer, reported third-quarter profit more than doubled, topping analysts' estimates.

Net income advanced to $43.9 million, or 67 cents a share, from $19 million, or 30 cents, a year earlier, the New York company said. Revenue climbed 14% to $414.1 million.

Profit and sales beat analysts' estimates. Analysts predicted profit of 59 cents and revenue of $409.9 million, the average of estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

J.Crew said fourth-quarter earnings would be 37 cents to 42 cents a share. Analysts predict 41 cents, on average. The retailer posted a loss of 22 cents a share in the year-earlier period.

The retailer announced its earnings Tuesday after markets closed. Its shares rose $3.20, or 7.8%, to $44.05 on Wednesday.

-- times wire reports

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