Will Bay Area Lose Its ImaginAsian?

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While ImaginAsian TV made distribution inroads in the Los Angeles market last week, the upstart network may soon lose its carriage slot with Comcast Corp. in the Bay area.

The English-language network targeting Asian Americans -- which inked Los Angeles distribution deals with Time Warner Cable and Charter Communications Inc. -- is currently leasing time on Comcast’s San Francisco system.

The network said it will pull its signal when that deal expires at month’s end if the operator does not place the service on a digital tier.

Senior vice president of affiliate sales Anil Srivatsa said ImaginAsian TV elected to lease time on the 230,000-subscriber system last year in an effort to gain exposure, but he believes it should now receive a traditional carriage agreement.

While hopeful of finalizing a carriage deal before the lease agreement concludes, Srivatsa said one potential roadblock could be Comcast’s desire to protect its own Asian-aimed analog channel, AZN.

“If channel capacity is their concern, the simple solution would be to move AZN to digital basic to free up one analog channel, which would give them more [digital-channel space] than they need,” Srivatsa said, referring to the digital-compression ratio that allows operators to gain six digital channels from one analog service.

“I think Asians in San Francisco deserve at least two channels, and I hope Comcast can separate church and state and negotiate in good faith,” he added.

A Comcast spokesperson said: “We’re in ongoing discussions with ImaginAsian regarding carriage in the San Francisco market.”

The Los Angeles deals with Charter and Time Warner will give ImaginAsian TV an additional 200,000 subscribers in the nation’s second-most-populous Asian-American market, Srivatsa said.

The Time Warner agreement is part of a national carriage deal with the MSO, although the network has yet to secure any further rollouts with other systems.

For more on ImaginAsian TV, please see R. Thomas Umstead’s story on page 10 of Monday’s issue of Multichannel News.

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