Comcast Corp. in May will bring a somewhat localized version of CN8: The Comcast Network to Boston and other New England markets it services.
Currently, more than 4 million Comcast households from northern New Jersey to northern Virginia receive the 24-hour CN8 and its mix of newscasts, talk/information and sports fare.
Come May, the channel's penetration will jump to more than 6.2 million households with new carriage on the Boston and New England systems — operations in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Maine — which Comcast obtained in its acquisition of AT&T Broadband. There, CN8 replaces regional channel AT&T 3.
The Philadelphia-based MSO has no immediate plans to make CN8 available to its entire universe of 20 million plus customers. But different regional divisions are watching how this fusion plays out.
"As we develop our model for one channel up and down the East Coast, something like this service will have more value and relevancy to other parts of the country," said Comcast cable unit Eastern division president Michael Doyle, the network's founder.
In New England, CN8 viewers will get the current lineup, with several exceptions. At 7 and 10 p.m., when hour-long newscasts appear, New England viewers will see Nightbeat, covering politics and analysis of the day's major stories, and Sports Pulse, featuring regional pro, college and high school highlights.
With New England Cable News — half-owned by Comcast, half by Hearst Corp. — running 24 hours a day, CN8 opted to replace its evening news programs with special area-centric fare.
"Why duplicate what they're doing in the same hour?" Doyle said. "So we're running live news talk and sports."
Nightbeat and Sports Pulse will originate from a Boston studio, now undergoing a $2 million facelift. The studio will support guest segments, including those on It's Your Call with Lynn Doyle, the newsmaker chat series, and Money Matters Today.
At other times, CN8 will present high-school, college, and major and minor league professional team events of particular New England interest.
Over the first year, all regions will receive 150 college or pro and 100 high-school matchups.
The New England expansion will also bring two new daytime programs to the entire East Coast region: a two-hour late morning show and a midday hour. Formats are still being developed.
Comcast will continue to run 12 minutes per hour of advertising and promotion on CN8. A fiber interconnect enables Comcast to run different ads simultaneously in specific markets.