Change a Cable TV Channel Horses in Mid-Stream: Do Viewers Get a Vote?

Seems that the Comcast-cable network -- now NBC cable network -- G4 will be turning into the Esquire Channel, thanks to a new NBCUniversal partnership with Hearst, so says a number of reports.

Some have complained viewers had nothing to do with this change, that is all has to do with big media doing their thing with disregard to anyone else. Yes and no.

If ratings of some poorly-programmer cable channel keep losing viewers -- or not growing -- than that is a signal of problem. It's unwanted.  In November G4 numbers were indeed ho-hum -- down 9% in total primetime viewers to an average 124,000 and up 6% in total day viewers to 88,000.

But as we all know things aren't that simple. Cable networks -- in rough theory -- should be cater to a niche viewers -- men, women, music lovers, sports fans, history buffs, foodies, medical observers, legal eagles, and fur experts. The question is how niche.

At the same time cable networks want to grow -- and that can mean leaving or branching out to other niches, more of a broad audience. You know, as in broadcasting.  Does USA Network do that? TNT, perhaps? Maybe History, FX and AMC is doing some of this.

Changing one's channel identity and programming means some key cable customers will no longer get things they want. Gamers, technology-minded folk, will no longer have G4. The Esquire Channel will still go after men -- but upscale, perhaps slightly older. That said, one might argue those hard-core gamer G4 TV viewers can find stuff elsewhere to entertain them -- on the internet, possibly on other cable networks.

Changing cable brands happens from time to time. The Nashville Network became TNN which became Spike, a young male centric channel. In recent years, Discovery Health became OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network. SoapNet became Disney Jr.

What's the answer? Pay for what you want. That controversial thing called a la carte programming is where in theory consumers can do just that and at lower cost. Turns out it doesn't work that way.

The cable industry has done a good job in convincing most business executives and a few customers that a la carte -- at the moment -- doesn't work in anyone's favor. You spend $120 a month for 200 channels.  But you might end up paying $150 for 50 channels in a new a la carte world. All this has to do with a big media companies leverage when it comes to its TV channel assets.

Think about how it was in 1963. Perhaps you hated that CBS didn't give you enough. You wanted more variety -- Red Skelton and Jackie Gleason. But there were only really three networks back then. Choice was limited though, in theory, it was for free.

We can always unplug, go back to just the over-the-air stuff now -- or you can wait for sports network to turn into a rural cooking channel full of motorcycling riding hosts.



2 comments about "Change a Cable TV Channel Horses in Mid-Stream: Do Viewers Get a Vote?".
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  1. Mike Einstein from the Brothers Einstein, December 14, 2012 at 11:34 a.m.

    Does I get a chance to comment on the great editing of this piece?

  2. Bob Waln from TANDBERG Television, December 27, 2012 at 9:51 a.m.

    Ummm - did anyone proofread this? Pretty embarrassing when even the title is grammatically incorrect.

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