Time Warner Cable of New York City is pulling Discovery
People off its "MetroChoice" tier and replacing it with another Discovery
Communications Inc. service, Travel Channel, officials said last week.
The change will take place June 29, according to Barry
Rosenblum, president of the system, which reaches more than 1 million subscribers.
Back in February 1993, Time Warner -- dissatisfied with
Travel's programming under former owner Landmark Communications Inc. -- dropped the
network in lower Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens, marking a loss of 650,000 subscribers.
As a result, Travel is currently only carried in roughly
160,000 homes on expanded basic in upper Manhattan.
Travel has undergone a major programming overhaul since its
ownership was totally taken over from Paxson Communications Corp. by DCI in February.
Paxson had bought the service from Landmark.
Under DCI's helm, Travel has been paying launch fees, and
its distribution has soared to just over 30 million homes -- nearly double what it was
when DCI got it.
"They've done a wonderful job changing the
service," Rosenblum said.
Rosenblum was so impressed with Travel's relaunch that he
decided it belongs on the MetroChoice tier, replacing Discovery People. Time Warner is
rolling out MetroChoice in rebuilt areas in the "Big Apple." The system is
undergoing a $400 million, five-year upgrade.
Discovery People is the midst of a makeover by DCI. The
company acquired CBS Eye on People from CBS Corp. in December, renamed it Discovery People
and is retooling its program lineup, in the same way that it revamped Travel.
Rosenblum said the Discovery People concept has a lot of
potential, but the network needs a lot of work, whereas Travel has already successfully
made its programming transition.
"Hopefully, Discovery will do the same thing with
People as it did with Travel," he said.
Time Warner will roll out digital cable in New York in the
near future, and Rosenblum said he would like to bring back Discovery People as a digital
service at that time.
DCI officials said they were happy with Time Warner's move,
and they actually worked with the cable system on it.
Bill Goodwyn, senior vice president of affiliate sales and
marketing for Discovery Networks U.S., said Travel is an analog service and MetroChoice is
an analog tier.
In contrast, Discovery People is taking both digital and
analog carriage, so DCI isn't adverse to having the network carried on digital when Time
Warner introduces that service in New York.
"Time Warner is pleased with where we took Travel
Channel," Goodwyn said, "so it made a lot of sense to add back Travel."
So far, 135,000 subscribers have signed up for MetroChoice,
Rosenblum said. As for the Discovery People switch-out for Travel, he added, "We
think we're doing our customers a favor."
Rosenblum wasn't concerned that once MetroChoice is offered
in upper Manhattan, Travel's carriage there will be duplicated.
In 1997, roughly 40 cable networks -- including then-CBS
Eye on People -- bitterly vied for berths on the MetroChoice tier, seeing it as a way to
get a foothold in Time Warner's 1 million-plus subscriber base in New York.