Three MSOs -- FrontierVision Partners L.P, Buford
Television and Galaxy Cablevision -- have joined the list of operators that have switched
out Country Music Television for Great American Country, with the latest changes involving
roughly 626,000 subscribers.
"These are pretty much MSO-wide deals," GAC
president Jeff Wayne said. CMT declined to comment last week.
And a fourth MSO -- Northland Communications Corp. of
Seattle -- is also doing an unspecified number of CMT switch-outs, sources said. But
Northland said it would have to consult with its lawyers before making any comment.
In the biggest of the switch-outs, Denver-based
FrontierVision is replacing CMT with GAC at systems representing about 400,000 subscribers
-- all of the MSO's CMT homes -- according to Bonnie Busekrus, FrontierVision's
vice president of programming.
The changes started in January, and there haven't been
any subscriber complaints, she added.
Busekrus said GAC -- which has fewer commercials and which
airs 400 more country-music videos per week than CMT does -- is a better product for
"It just made a tremendous amount of sense,"
Busekrus said. "And we've heard very positive feedback from other MSOs that have
made the change."
Tyler, Texas-based Buford will replace CMT with GAC at
systems representing about 126,000 subscribers this year, as well as adding GAC to 15,000
homes in rebuilt areas, said chief operating officer Ron Martin. That's a total gain
of about 140,000 subscribers for GAC from Buford this year.
"It was not an easy decision," Martin said.
The MSO will continue carrying CMT in a number of small
systems -- 100 headends that represent 15,000 subscribers -- Martin added. The Buford
switch-outs will start March 1 and continue through May.
Sikeston, Mo.-based Galaxy switched out CMT for GAC Feb. 1
at systems representing about 100,000 subscribers, according to Doug Montandon, the
MSO's vice president of marketing and programming. Galaxy is still carrying CMT on
systems with 25,000 homes, he added.
"With programming costs being what they are, this will
save us half a million dollars over five years," he said. "It was just one of
those financial decisions."
Both Martin and Montandon noted that CMT no longer has a
carriage deal with the National Cable Television Cooperative, while GAC, which is part of
Jones International Inc., still does. Both MSOs are co-op members.
"Our company prefers to have the NCTC negotiate our
deals," Martin said.
Like Galaxy, GAC also offered Buford a very attractive
financial package, with launch support and other incentives, according to Martin. The fact
that GAC airs more country-music videos than CMT also made it alluring, he added.
Some of Buford's cable systems are now geographically
adjacent to other systems that have switched out CMT for GAC.
For example, TCA Cable TV Inc., which is also based in
Tyler, did an MSO-wide switch-out last year involving roughly 700,000 subscribers. And
late last year, Tele-Communications Inc. swapped GAC for CMT in 450,000 homes in Dallas.
Rifkin & Associates Inc. also did an MSO-wide switch-out of about 200,000 homes.
In addition, CMT lost subscribers in a number of large Ohio
DMAs to GAC last year, including switch-outs in Columbus and Cincinnati.
GAC's distribution stood at more than 7.4 million
subscribers at the start of February, according to Wayne. CMT is at about 40 million