Comcast Corp. is shelving regional news channel TSM
Network, which Lenfest Communications Inc. and its Suburban Cable created and distributed
to roughly 1 million subscribers.
Comcast, which bought Lenfest and Suburban, laid off 41 TSM
staffers earlier this month. A total of 35 of those staffers were part-timers, and all of
them got six-month severance packages. Another 34 TSM employees had already left with
severance packages in hand.
But even as it shut down Tri-State Media Inc., Comcast
hired 85 of its staffers for the news department the MSO is building for CN8. CN8 is
Comcast's own regional public-affairs and sports channel, and in April, it plans to
add two live nightly newscasts -- at 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. -- to its schedule.
In the past, CN8 mainly aired a mix of regional sports and
live call-in talk shows, with those offerings dealing with politics, community issues,
health and sports. That format was in contrast to the all-news programming TSM was doing.
"We thought a marriage of [CN8's talk programming
and TSM's live news] was perfect," said Michael Doyle, senior vice president for
Comcast's East-West region.
In addition to hiring the 85 former TSM employees, CN8
retained TSM president Stanley Greene to do some consulting. The channel will also recruit
another 15 people so that it has 100 on staff dedicated to news, according to Doyle.
CN8 is spending $1 million to buy new equipment and build
new sets at TSM's studio in New Castle, Del., where its new nightly newscasts will be
"Our programming model for CN8 has been live talk and
airing 200 sports events," Doyle said. "When we looked at our programming, what
we were missing in the mix was news."
As part of its new regional-news initiative, CN8 is also
spending $1.5 million to upgrade a studio in center city Philadelphia, one of its two
facilities in the "City of Brotherly Love." The channel also has bureaus or
studio facilities in Baltimore; Trenton and Union, N.J.; and Pennsylvania.
CN8 reaches 4 million cable homes, via fiber, from
Baltimore to northern New Jersey, with a huge cluster in Philadelphia. Its newscasts will
contain news from throughout the region it covers via its various news bureaus.
Once the newscasts start in April, CN8's primetime
lineup will undergo a slight revamping.
The show that now airs at 7 p.m., Family Talk, will
move to mornings once the first newscast debuts. It's Your Call will stay at 8
p.m., followed by medical show On Call at 9 p.m. and Sports Talk at 10 p.m.
The second live newscast airs at 11 p.m.
So from 7 p.m. to midnight, CN8's programming will be
live, Doyle said, as well its morning block from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m.