Rebrand Plans Don't Bowl Cable Ops Over

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New York— Several MSOs last week expressed reservations and doubts about the new programming plans unveiled by TNN: The National Network — to be rebranded as Spike TV — and ABC Family.

"Talk about confusing," one cable-operator source griped. "First it was TNN, then The National Network. And the name Spike TV is terrible."

Cable One Inc. vice president of strategic marketing Jerry McKenna cited the "younger, hipper feel" of TNN's new name.

"The challenge, though, is you're starting from ground zero in terms of building a brand personality," McKenna said. "That requires time and investment … [and] whether they can capture that [male] audience without programming sports or music will be a challenge."

McKenna said he thought ABC Family suffered from repurposing ABC Television Network shows. "I think what they're seeing is that it hasn't generated the response they've been looking for," he said.

ABC Family officials say repurposing ABC sitcoms has failed, but replays of ABC reality shows have drawn new viewers. A batch of original reality programming will be added to ABC Family's schedule.

"The proof will be in the ratings I guess, as long as they don't stray from their commitments in their affiliation agreements," said Frank Hughes, senior vice president of programming for the National Cable Television Cooperative.

A Time Warner Cable spokesman cautioned that MSOs launch networks predicated on their program format at that time, in a bid to add unique content to a cable system's channel lineup. When a network subsequently changes its program offering "significantly" without consulting Time Warner, it could ultimately change the MSO's view of that service, the spokesman said.

Ratings-deprived ABC Family has faced problems with distributors, as DirecTV Inc. recently threatened to drop the service. The network is now in negotiations with Cox Communications Inc., whose affiliation contract has expired, an MSO spokesman said.

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