Comcast Joins Time Warner In Family Tiering
Comcast will offer 16 family channels--Disney Channel, Toon Disney, HGTV, Food Network, DIY, PBS Kids Sprout, Discovery Kids, CNN Headline News, Discovery's Science Channel, The Weather Channel, Nickelodeon/Nick Too, National Geographic Channel, Nickelodeon GAS (Games and Sports), C-SPAN, TBN (Trinity Broadcasting), and C-SPAN 2. Like Time Warner's requirements, Comcast chose these networks because 1) they have mostly "G"-rated programming; 2) they have limited "live" entertainment programming; 3) they are widely distributed across its systems; and 4) they can be contractually sold to consumers in specific tiers.
Comcast seems to make a couple of exceptions--as Time Warner has--for "live" programming--allowing news networks C-SPAN and CNN Headline News.
Unlike Time Warner, however, Comcast has included channels PBS Kids Sprout, National Geographic Channel, Nickelodeon, and TBN. Comcast added that family networks are not only kids' networks, but should include others as well. Of those general interest networks, Comcast and Time Warner have both selected Scripps Television cable networks in their packages--HGTV, Food Network, and DIY.
Comcast's package will be available to 99 percent of all its subscribers who have access to its "Digital Cable" service. Comcast, the biggest cable operator in the United States, has 21.4 million subscribers--including 9.4 million who subscribe to its "Digital Cable" service.
The family tier will cost on average $31.20 per month, depending on the market. That's about a dollar less than Time Warner's family package.
The Comcast family package will include Comcast's basic cable tier of 20 to 25 broadcast channels with an average price of $12; the 16 family-tier channels, priced at around $14.95; and a digital cable set-top box, with a national average price of $4.25. Additionally--and somewhat ironically, subscribers of the family tier can add pay TV networks. Pay TV networks typically have the roughest, most adult content of any cable channels.
While TV pressure groups and family-oriented organizations are taking credit for these moves by the cable industry, they say cable operators have not gone far enough by offering true a la carte programming that allows consumers to pick and choose the exact programs they want.
A Comcast spokeswoman has made it a point that the family tier packaging is about choice. Comcast also offers a Hispanic-language tier of programming as well as a sports tier package of programming.