Comcast has moved several smaller networks from its Digital Starter package to the more expensive Digital Preferred tier, a move the company says is well within its rights and helps keep down programming costs.
Viacom networks Spike TV and CMT (formerly Country Music TV) were moved from its Digital Starter tier to Digital Preferred, a move that will require fans of those networks to cough up an additional $10 per month. In addition, Comcast moved POP (the former TV Guide Network) to the Digital Preferred tier.
In a statement, Comcast said it is within its contractual rights to move the channels.
The move was first reported by the New York Post.
“Our goal is to provide customers with the best value and most viewing choices,” Comcast said in a statement. “However, due to increasing programming costs, we sometimes need to make adjustments to our channel lineup. These are not easy decisions, and we know that some customers will be disappointed. We understand choice is important to our customers, and these channels will continue to be available but in a different package.”
Cable operators have regularly moved channels between packages, and according to some people familiar with the situation, in the case of Spike, most viewers of that channel are already Digital Preferred customers. While there likely is some loss of subscribers for the network as a result of the switch, some people familiar with the move have likened it to moving a channel from the basic to the expanded basic tier and said it is not a material loss.
Still, the move has incensed Viacom, which said it violates its carriage agreement with Comcast.
“Comcast has moved both Spike TV and CMT to more expensive tiers of service,” Viacom said in a statement. “This action is in direct violation of our agreement and will increase costs for customers who will now have to pay more for networks that were previously included in less expensive packages. We hope our Comcast viewers will continue to recognize the value of our services featuring hit shows such as Spike’s “Lip Sync Battle” and CMT’s “I Love Kellie Pickler” and seek them out, but we want them to know that all the extra money from these higher monthly fees goes directly to Comcast and is not shared with Spike TV or CMT.
“We continue to address our concerns directly with Comcast and hope their customers will do so as well,” Viacom continued.
Some of those customers have taken to social media, with several posting on Twitter to voice their opinion of the moves.