Cable Operators

ImaginAsian Gains L.A., Could Lose Bay Area

10/14/2005 8:00 PM Eastern

While ImaginAsian TV made distribution inroads in the Los Angeles market last week, the upstart network may soon lose its carriage slot with Comcast Corp. in the Bay Area.

The English-language network targeting Asian-Americans, which inked Los Angeles distribution deals with Time Warner Cable and Charter Communications Corp., is currently leasing time on Comcast’s San Francisco system.

The network said it will pull its signal when that deal expires at month’s end if the operator does not place the service on a digital tier. Anil Srivatsa, senior vice president of affiliate sales, said the network last year elected to lease time on the 230,000 subscriber system in an effort to gain exposure, but believes that it should now receive a traditional carriage agreement.

While hopeful of finalizing a carriage deal before the lease agreement concludes, Srivatsa said one potential roadblock could be Comcast’s desire to protect its own Asian-aimed analog channel AZN.

“If channel capacity is their concern, the simple solution would be to move AZN to digital basic to free up one analog channel, which would give them more [digital channel space] than they need,” said Srivatsa, referring to digital compression ratio that allows operators to gain six digital channels from one analog service. “I think Asians in San Francisco deserve at least two channels, and I hope Comcast can separate church and state and negotiate in good faith.”

A Comcast spokesperson said: “We’re in ongoing discussions with ImaginAsian regarding carriage in the San Francisco market.”

In support of its cause, the network plans to launch a multimedia, guerilla marketing campaign encouraging viewers to call Comcast San Francisco’s toll-free number (800-945-2288) and demand the MSO support media diversity by continuing to carry the network.

The Los Angeles deals with Charter and Time Warner will give the network an additional 200,000 subscribers in the nation’s second most populous Asian-American market, Srivatsa said. The Time Warner agreement is part of a national carriage deal with the MSO, although the network has yet to secure any further rollouts with other systems.

The agreement follows Time Warner and ImaginAsian’s summer partnership to distribute Asian movies on demand as part of the network’s “Hit Asian Film Festival.”

“We are pleased that our relationship with Time Warner Cable is continuing to grow as we expand into new markets,” said Srivatsa. “Being available on basic digital will give everyone an opportunity to appreciate the level of complexity and depth that exists among Asian cultures, and allow us to contribute to the mainstream like never before.”

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