Comcast continues the channel shuffle

  • Article by: JOHN EWOLDT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 30, 2011 - 9:03 PM

It's easy to get subscribers riled up about Comcast when it moves channels from basic to premium-priced packages, but media experts say it's more complicated than that.

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Mary Anderson of St. Paul is still upset that Comcast moved the AMC channel to a higher pay tier in 2007. Now the cable company is doing the same to the Turner Classic Movies (TCM) and Great American Country (GAC) channels and Anderson is not amused. "This is not acceptable," she said.

It's easy to get subscribers riled up about Comcast, named "worst company" by voters at Consumerist.com last year for poor customer service and price hikes. But media experts say it's more complicated than a cable company trying to wring more money from subscribers by upgrading channels to higher-priced tiers.

Cable companies negotiate multiple channels owned by conglomerates Disney or Viacom, but Comcast may have traded TCM to a higher tier in exchange for another channel, said Harold Feld of Publicknowledge.org, a consumer nonprofit. "It's like kids trading baseball cards," he said. There's also the possibility that the channel was upgraded to irritate competitor Time Warner, which owns TCM.

Regardless, since Jan. 1, 2010, Comcast has added more channels to each tier than have been subtracted, said Comcast spokesman Dave Nyberg. Six channels have been added to the B1 basic cable tier, including CoolTV; 11 channels to the Digital Starter tier such as Sprout, G4 and BBC America; three channels to Digital Preferred including BBC World News and Galavision, and 93 HD channels.

Cable prices have risen about 4 percent since 2010.

GAC moved to the Digital Preferred tier Dec. 22. TCM will move Jan. 5.

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