Cartoon, Turner South Gain Carriage


Turner Network Sales has closed a number of carriage deals for its networks, including a pact that adds Turner South to DirecTV Inc.'s lineup and an additional commitment from AT&T Broadband for Cartoon Network, officials said last week.

Direct-broadcast satellite provider DirecTV will add regional entertainment network Turner South to its "Total Choice" package for subscribers in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee, South Carolina and parts of North Carolina. The DBS company will identify the Turner South customers in the specified Southern states by using ZIP codes, according to officials.

EchoStar Communications Corp.'s Dish Network also offers Turner South to its DBS customers in the Southeast region, according to Andrew Heller, president of domestic distribution for Turner Broadcasting System Inc.

The addition of DirecTV will give Turner South roughly 4.6 million subscribers, Heller said. Neither he nor DirecTV would specifically detail how many homes Turner South will gain from the DBS launch.

Turner South offers movies and news programs that reflect Southern culture, including original fare such as Live fromthe Bluebird Café and Southern Living Presents. It also airs games involving three Atlanta pro sports teams-Major League Baseball's Braves, the National Basketball Association's Hawks and the National Hockey League's Thrashers.

The service, which launched in October 1999, recently bowed the series Liars and Legends, which examines the people and products that have shaped the South's history.

Cartoon Network, another TBS Inc. service, picks up about 650,000 subscribers through an additional distribution commitment from AT&T. The deal will push the network's subscriber base past 69 million.

AT&T will add Cartoon to nearly 600,000 more homes in New England and another 50,000 homes in Helena, Mont.; Farmington, Neb.; and Edmonds, Wash.

Heller conceded that Cartoon's quest for full distribution-to grow from almost 70 million homes to 80 million and more-is now "down to the nitty gritty.

"The remaining pockets are harder to get," he said. "But when you've got a network that's inching toward No. 1 ratings in primetime, those systems that don't carry it have a lot of consumer pressure to try to find room for it."

Boomerang, Cartoon's retro spin-off, is having a slow go on the carriage front. It now has distribution at 1.5 million subscribers, with the lion's share on DBS. The network, which celebrates its first anniversary April 1, is now available through tiered family packages from DirecTV and Dish Network.

The service, which airs cartoons featuring classic animated characters, also has carriage deals with MSOs such as Cablevision Systems Corp., Charter Communications Inc. and Blue Ridge Communications. That includes some digital carriage on a few systems owned by those MSOs in California and Long Island, N.Y., Heller said.

"We are in discussions, and hope to have a few big cable launches soon," he added.

Three other TBS Inc. networks-Turner Classic Movies, Cable News Network and Turner Network Television-also reached distribution benchmarks.

TCM, the classic movie network, has surpassed the 47 million subscriber milestone. The channel recently gained about 750,000 subscribers through launches by AT&T in Devils Lake, N.D.; Charter in Bay City/Midland, Mich., and Long Beach, Calif.; Comcast Corp. in Detroit and Burlington, N.J.; Cox Communications Inc. in Amarillo and Huntsville, Texas; and Time Warner Cable in Palm Desert, Calif., and Raleigh/Durham, N.C.

CNN and TNT, in turn, are now distributed in more than 80 million domestic households. As such, they are inching up on TBS Superstation, which, at 82.4 million subscribers, is the most widely distributed cable network of all..