[opendtv] News: Time Warner Launches Family Tier

  • From: OpenDTV <opendtv@xxxxxxxxx>
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  • Date: Fri, 16 Dec 2005 08:30:15 -0500


Time Warner Launches Family Tier

By John M. Higgins & John Eggerton -- Broadcasting & Cable, 
12/15/2005 1:55:00 PM

Now we know what Time Warner thinks is family-friendly.

Hoping to placate regulators, Time Warner Cable said Thursday it 
would launch a tier of family programming.

While the 15-channel tier will include one top network --The Disney 
Channel -- it is composed largely of spinoffs of cable's most popular 

The new Family Choice tier will include: Boomerang, C-SPAN 2, C-SPAN 
3, CNN Headline News, The Science Channel, Discovery Kids, Disney 
Channel, Toon Disney, DIY Network, FIT-TV, Food Network, HGTV, La 
Familia, Nick Games & Sports, and The Weather Channel.

Notable absences from the tier are the major news networks, kids 
channel Nickelodeon, Time Warner's own Cartoon Network (which also 
carries adult content) and Discovery Channel.

Time Warner spokesman Mark Harrad says that the reason the news 
channel was CNN Headline News rather than CNN or Fox News Channel was 
that CNN Headline's primarily shorter, prepackaged clips made it less 
likely that any age member of the family would sit down and find 
something objectionable at any time of day, which was the company's 
test for the tier--hence the absence of Cartoon.

The networks are all considered "G-rated" by Time Warner Cable 
executives, and they do not have live entertainment programming. By 
G-rated, the company said it meant channels that "did not include 
'live' entertainment programming and which contained content that was 
generally perceived as acceptable for the entire family to view." 

The tier will be rolled out during the first quarter of 2006 and cost 
$12.99 monthly. The tier is a digital cable package requiring many 
subscribers to pay more for a new converter for many customers.

Subscribers will still have to buy the broadcast basic tier for 
around $12 monthly. That tier of 15-20 channels includes the 
broadcast stations, public, educational and government access 
channels, C-SPAN and some additional channels varying by market--New 
York 1 in New York, for example.

But they will not have to buy enhanced basic or any other digital tier. 

"Our customers have always had the tools to actively exclude any 
channel or program they might find objectionable for their families," 
Glenn Britt, chairman and CEO of Time Warner Cable, said in a 
statement. "This new family tier will offer our customers yet another 
way to obtain kid-friendly programs without the need for them to take 
an active role in monitoring shows and deciding on which ones to 
proactively block from their TV set."

National Cable & Telecommunications Association President Kyle 
McSlarrow Monday told the Senate Commerce Committee during an 
indecency hearing that operators representing over 50% of U.S. subs 
would be announcing family-freindly tiers, some within the next week 
or so, saying that should take mandated a la carte off the table.

Commerce Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) was hoping the effort would 
obviate the need for regulation and placate cable critics, but 
several groups, including Parents Television Council (PTC), Concerned 
Women for America and Consumers Union, said Thursday the tiers are 
not sufficient unless the channels are chosen by the viewers in 
customized packages (a la carte), not by the operators or programmers.

PTC President Brent Bozell called the Time Warner tier a ""a very bad 
joke. It is perfectly obvious Time Warner is deliberately offering a 
product designed to fail," he said, going through a laundry list of 
what he said were family-appropriate channels that weren't in the 
tier, including ESPN, Turner Classic Movies, Fox News Channel, and a 
couple dozen more.

"I bet you couldn't find five employees of Time Warner who would 
subscribe to this foolishness for their own families," he said in a 
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