Charter Communications has started to notify customers that it will drop Comcast NBC Universal’s niche horror network Chiller on April 25, according to reports.
Chiller, which was launched in 2006, generally airs movies, original series and miniseries in the horror and sci-fi genres. The network, according to reports, is available in about 34 million homes.
News of the action was first reported by TVpredictions.com.
Charter officials did not respond to requests for comment.
At least for the time being Chiller’s fate as a linear network is secure. An NBC Universal spokesman said the Charter decision will have no effect on the programmer’s plans for the channel.
“Chiller will continue as a linear network,” NBCU said in an email message. “There are no plans to close Chiller or make it a digital network.”
But losing Charter -- which has about 17.2 million customers -- is a blow to the channel, which was dropped by Dish Network and its 13.7 million subscribers earlier this month.
NBCU said in January that the Esquire Network would cease to be a linear channel and would focus on digital distribution, about a month after being dropped by AT&T/DirecTV. Charter also said it would drop Esquire as of April 25. And NBCU shuttered crime-themed channel Cloo in February after it lost carriage with several major distributors, including Dish Network and Charter.
Charter reached a carriage renewal agreement with NBCU in January, but did not formally announce the deal like it has in past carriage agreements. It is likely that as part of that new agreement, carriage of Chiller was not included.
NBCU’s moves are in line with what chairman and CEO Steve Burke hinted at in an earnings conference call in July that programmers could reduce their overall channel lineups, NBCU included, as they focus on their largest brands. NBCU has about 14 channels – including USA Network, Syfy, Bravo and MSNBC, which have strong ratings – but more marginal channels like Chiller, Cloo and Esquire Network are facing added pressure as consumers reject channels they don’t watch and distributors move to offer skinnier video packages.
Viacom CEO Bob Bakish made the biggest splash last month when he said the programmer would focus on six core networks: BET, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, Nick Jr. and Spike (soon to be renamed the Paramount Network). Viacom’s other 19 channels wouldn’t be scrapped, but Bakish said they would receive less emphasis and fewer resources than the core channels.