Charter to shift PEG channels, add TBS and Animal Planet in HD
Kristin Czubkowski 8/29/2008 6:39 pm
Local public, education and government channels have gotten a reprieve of sorts from Charter Communications, which announced Friday afternoon that it would not yet be moving those channels off its analog service.
According to Tim Vowell of Charter, local PEG channels such as the Madison City Channel will be moved in the coming weeks to channels 95 through 99 on Charter's basic analog service. They also will be a part of its new digital Public Affairs Neighborhood on channels 979 through 998.
In July, Charter announced that the channels would only be offered on a digital tier, although basic and expanded analog cable subscribers could access the channels with a recently purchased television that has a QAM tuner or with the rental of Charter's digital equipment. Complaints about the cost of renting the equipment, however, prompted Charter to maintain the PEG channels on analog television.Vowell said the move up the analog dial would help preserve enough bandwidth for Charter to follow through on its plan to add high-definition channels such as Animal Planet and TBS
-- which will air portions of the Major League Baseball playoffs. Digital channels generally use significantly less bandwidth than analog channels.
"I'm happy that we have found a way to leave the access channels, at least at this time, at an analog format and still accomplish the high-definition launches, which is what our customers are really telling us in a big way that they want," he said. "We've listened to the customers' concerns and feedback, and we've gone through a pretty rigorous re-analysis in order to address that, and we found a way and we're happy about that."
Brad Clark, station manager of the Madison City Channel, called the announcement a "step in the right direction" for Charter. But he expressed concerns that the PEG channels may have to relocate twice if Charter chooses to drop them from the analog lineup in the future, which would pose marketing issues for the channels.
"What I want to be clear about is that they're going to continue to offer us on analog until such time, whenever this happens, that they move their entire service over to digital, which includes the local network affiliate channels," he said.
Clark also expressed concern that Charter was moving the PEG channels not necessarily for more bandwidth, but because Channel 12 -- the current location of Madison City Channel -- is "a more valuable piece of real estate" on the spectrum.
Vowell said there are no current plans to move the PEG channels further, but that they would be monitoring bandwidth needs in the future.
The Public Affairs Neighborhood from channels 979 through 998 will be available beginning Sept. 9, while the move of PEG channels to channels 95 through 99 will take place Sept. 30.
The HD channels will launch in early October.
TBS is scheduled to begin its coverage of the baseball playoffs with coverage of all four Division Series starting Sept. 30, and then will televise the American League Championship Series. Fox will televise the National League Championship Series and World Series.http://www.madison.com/tct/news/stories/302761