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Court’s Genre-Based Valentine

2/27/2005 7:00 PM Eastern

Pointing to research indicating that subscribers find it easier to channel-surf when networks from the same genre are positioned side-by-side, Court TV is pushing cable operators to pursue genre-based lineups.

Last summer, Comcast Corp. reconfigured the channel lineup on its cable systems in the Dallas DMA, moving from 20 different versions in the market to a single one that grouped networks by genre.

NEAR GEN-ENTS

At channel 47, Court TV resides between USA Network and FX, and is also near Turner Network Television, TBS and E! Entertainment Television. Comcast also grouped kids’ services, women-targeted channels, sports networks and news channels together, similar to the way satellite providers DirecTV Inc. and EchoStar Communications Corp.’s Dish Network have organized their lineups by genre.

Court TV, which stands to gain if it’s placed next to higher-rated general-entertainment networks such as TNT and USA, is encouraging Comcast and other operators to tweak their lineups in other markets.

For years, cable networks have negotiated with operators for channel placement, figuring the lower a network’s position, the more likely a viewer is to stumble across it. But Court TV, which has added more entertainment programming to its slate, wants to be placed near general-entertainment networks, said executive vice president of affiliate relations Bob Rose.

Rose also suggested cable operators — which get three minutes per hour from Court TV to run local advertising and promotions for their own products — stand to gain.

“If our ratings go up because of this, your local ratings go up. And since you use your avails not only for local [advertising] but to market new services, like digital [cable] and high-speed [data], you’re lowering your own costs,” Rose said.

Court TV surveyed 805 subscribers in the Dallas area from August through November, and said it found that 81% of the subscribers believed the new genre-based channel lineup was easy to understand. About 40% of the respondents said they sampled new networks and programs since the lineup change, while 78% said they liked having similar channels grouped together.

About 5% of the Comcast subscribers surveyed in Dallas said they didn’t like the channel changes, while 71% said they like it “very much or a little,” Court TV said.

CHAMPAGNE DREAMS

Court TV attached some of the research findings on cards that were tied to bottles of champagne that it recently sent to cable affiliates, hoping that they too would arrange their channel lineups by genre.

But the champagne may not be enough to woo Comcast, which currently doesn’t plan to group networks by genre on other cable systems. Executive vice president Dave Watson said the MSO would like to see multiple systems in market areas use the same lineup, but that the company won’t revamp its channel lineups nationwide to group networks by genre.

“What we are interested in, within a DMA, is to try to get as much consistency as you can. That is important so you can communicate broadly to the marketplace. But we’re not interested in a national push toward genre-based channel lineups at this point,” Watson said.

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