In a switch-out that involves several-hundred-thousand
subscribers, MediaOne Group Inc. is dropping TV Guide Channel in systems in Los Angeles
and the Northeast that use advanced-analog set-tops with their own embedded on-screen
program guides, officials said last week.
The MSO is now in the process of notifying subscribers who
will be losing TV Guide's electronic program guide, and the bulk of the drops will
take place from July through September, MediaOne spokesman Rob Stoddard said.
The change-out will give MediaOne space to add programming
services that customers are clamoring for, he added.
Stoddard wouldn't specify the exact number of
subscribers who will lose TV Guide, but he said it would involve
"several-hundred-thousand" out of MediaOne's total distribution of 5
Depending on the cable system, MediaOne is replacing TV
Guide with Travel Channel, Romance Classics or Game Show Network.
MediaOne's plans prompted action earlier this month by
TV Guide. In Los Angeles and New England, the network ran an on-screen crawl telling
viewers that MediaOne was planning to dump it. The crawl supplied an 800 number for
viewers to call to complain to MediaOne about the change.
TV Guide ran the crawl only for a day or so, during the
week of the National Show (June 14), according to Stoddard. "The TV Guide campaign
was short-lived," he added.
MediaOne did get some phone calls via the 800 number,
Stoddard said, but he didn't have a count on how many came in.
TV Guide Networks president Pam McKissick said her company
is in ongoing talks with MediaOne about continuing to provide TV Guide to the MSO's
subscribers in Los Angeles and Boston.
"We are aware that viewers made numerous calls to
local MediaOne systems to share their concerns about the removal of the channel in those
markets," McKissick said. "We are eager to resolve this to the satisfaction of
MediaOne and our viewers."
The switch-out only applies to cable systems where MediaOne
has deployed Scientific-Atlantic Inc.'s advanced-analog set-tops, which have their
own on-screen program guides built in.
"These changes will take place in areas where we have
virtual ubiquity of the new advanced-analog boxes where we have an alternative
guide," Stoddard said. "So, in fact, our customers won't be left in the
By dropping TV Guide, MediaOne will open up analog berths
for cable networks that subscribers are requesting, according to Stoddard.
"This will free up some shelf space to meet consumer
demands," he added. "The inducement was that we feel pressure to improve our
channel lineups. We're feeling competitive pressure."
MediaOne faces rivals such as RCN Corp. in the Northeast,
as well as direct-broadcast satellite and wireless all over the country, Stoddard said.
Earlier this year, analog network The Prevue Channel was
renamed TV Guide Channel after United Video Satellite Group Inc. bought TV Guide
magazine and its related assets for $2.5 billion.
UVSG was renamed TV Guide Inc., and it is now owned by News
Corp. and Liberty Media Group.
At the National Show, TV Guide unveiled several plans to
upgrade its EPG, such as local programming elements. The service is currently in roughly
54.1 million households.