Looking to shore up its stature with cable operators,
C-SPAN 2 is set to premiere its "network within a network," Book TV, this coming
"Book TV on C-SPAN 2," focusing on nonfiction and
the publishing industry, will launch Sept. 12, airing continuously each weekend from
Saturday at 8 a.m. to Monday at 8 a.m.
C-SPAN 2, which now reaches 50.9 million homes, lost
carriage or was reduced to part-time status in several million homes because of must-carry
six years ago.
Somewhat stymied by that setback, the network is also
suffering from a Rodney Dangerfield kind of complex: It just isn't getting enough
respect from some MSOs, according to Brian Lamb, C-SPAN's chairman and CEO.
"We need to make C-SPAN 2 a more valuable product to
cable operators," Lamb said. "This is part of our effort to do that. And we have
had a lot of success with [book-related programming]."
Right now, "some operators treat C-SPAN 2 as something
that they can mess with," he added. "They carry it part-time. It's not as
well-respected as C-SPAN."
The network is trying to remedy that problem by using Book
TV to help C-SPAN 2 to distinguish itself from C-SPAN. In the past, operators complained
that the services were too similar on weekends.
The new weekend marathons of book-related programming are
really an expansion of Booknotes, C-SPAN's successful decade-old
author-interview show. In May 1996, C-SPAN 2 rolled out About Books -- five
additional hours of book television each weekend.
Book TV will feature nonfiction authors discussing and
signing their works at bookstores across the country; show tours of unique bookstores and
libraries; look at the business of books and bookselling; and present live call-in forums.
The scheduling of Book TV doesn't interfere with
C-SPAN 2's normal mandate, which is to air gavel-to-gavel coverage of the U.S.
Senate, since that body rarely meets on weekends, Lamb said.
Some of the regularly scheduled segments include The
Business of Books, Children's Books, History on Book TV, Biography
on Book TV and Encore Booknotes.
"If it works, we'll continue it," Lamb said,
noting that Book TV doesn't cost a lot to produce, and that C-SPAN 2 is commercial
"We don't have to deliver numbers to
advertisers," Lamb said. "We can experiment."
Today, as a result of must-carry, roughly 5 million
combined C-SPAN and C-SPAN 2 subscribers who had been getting one of the networks
full-time either lost all access to them or were dropped to partial carriage. C-SPAN
reaches 73 million homes.
C-SPAN 2 will also be launching a Web site, www.booktv.org,
that will provide a schedule of Book TV programs and an archive of its segments.
A proposed full-time service that calls itself BookNet has
failed to make any inroads with operators so far.