Time Warner Cable drops arts channel

bcain@newsobserver.comJanuary 2, 2013 

Time Warner Cable rang in the new year by shedding the low-rated Ovation channel from its lineup.

Ovation, an independent channel dedicated to arts programming, was notified in mid-December that the cable company would not be carrying it after Dec. 31.

Time Warner Cable said other under-performing networks also are being scrutinized. Glenn Britt, Time Warner Cable’s CEO, told an industry group in early December that the company could no longer keep passing costs of low-rated channels on to customers who aren’t tuning in.

“We’re going to take a hard look at each service, and those services that cost too much relative to viewership, we’re going to drop them,” Britt told the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference in New York.

According to Time Warner Cable, “Ovation is among the poorest performing networks and is viewed by less than 1 percent of our customers on any given day.”

The CEO’s message of being more fiscally discerning is echoed by Keith Poston, director of communications for Time Warner Cable for Eastern North Carolina. Because of steeply escalating programming costs, Poston said, the company is obligated to assess each network as agreements come up for renewal.

“We have a responsibility to select unique, affordable and compelling options to offer to our customers,” said Poston. “Tough decisions, such as whether to continue carriage or move a network to another tier, are quickly becoming a fact of life for us at Time Warner Cable.”

Carl Meredith is one local viewer upset about Ovation’s removal from his Time Warner lineup. Meredith and his wife, who live near Clayton, are big fans of Ovation’s reruns of the original British version of “Antiques Roadshow.” Meredith said he had his DVR set to record the episodes during the day, and the couple would watch them together at night. Now, he gets a blue screen telling him Time Warner Cable no longer carries Ovation.

“Between deleting channels and their track record of outages, I’m just not getting my money’s worth,” Meredith said. “If they’re going to keep on taking away stuff and keep on raising the prices, that’s a double hit.”

A statement released by Ovation complained that Time Warner Cable focuses too much on sports programming and offers no other arts options. Ovation has some original arts programming, but it mostly relies on airing concerts and documentaries about artists and musicians. In the fall, the channel debuted an original six-part biography series about Johnny Cash called “Song by Song.”

The channel has begun a social media campaign to put pressure on Time Warner Cable to restore them to its lineup. It currently has more than 25,000 signatures on a petition at www.keepovation.com.

Ovation is still available on local carriers DirecTV, AT&T U-verse and Dish Network.

Time Warner Cable initially had signed a deal to keep Current TV, but on Wednesday, Current TV was sold to pan-Arab news giant Al Jazeera. Time Warner Cable then announced plans to drop it as quickly as possible.

Other channels that were danger of being axed by Time Warner Cable were IFC, WE TV and channels owned by Crown Media Holdings, which include the Hallmark Channel.

But the cable company has renewed its deal with Crown Media and has agreed to an extension with AMC Networks, the parent company of IFC and WE TV.

Cain: 919-829-4579

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