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[ The following is an unedited email sent to GCI employees and obtained
by BOSCO'S. ]
In tomorrow's Anchorage Daily News, and possibly next week's Anchorage
Press, an article may appear that describes the "Bosco's Committee for
Popular Culture" campaign to get GCI to put WB programming back on the
CATV systems. The Committee has taken out display ads in the Anchorage
Daily News for the past 10 days as well as set up a web site. As of today,
we have received a bit over 100 e-mails concerning the issue: about ten
percent are from out-of-state and a couple have advocated not airing WB
Since the issue is likely to generate a conversation or two while you're
at holiday parties, below is an overview of the subject provided by Holly
Henningsen in CATV marketing.
Programming change is an issue that we constantly face with our cable
television services. In fact, in cable and entertainment, programming
is king. If we don't make good decisions regarding which channels to carry
and how to price them, customers will go somewhere else. As a consequence,
we take this issue very seriously, and try to make the best long-term
The short answer is that we'd love to provide all the programming options
all of our customers want, when they want. But, the reality is that each
channel has certain benefits and costs associated with it that we must
mesh with plant capacity (bandwidth), existing contracts, certificate
requirements, market demand and return on investment. Given this, WB as
a analog channel (WB only offers its programming in analog) is not an
attractive offering. It's also important to remember that we are not saying
"never" to WB, we are just saying "not now." In the past three months,
GCI has received a total of about 400 calls on this issue rather than
300 to 400 calls per day that was erroneously reported in a Letter to
the Editor. Most of the calls have occurred when media was stimulated
by either a newspaper article (October 22) or a series of advertisements
run by Boscos Comics (apparently to stimulate book and card sales). Nevertheless,
each customer suggestion is logged and will be used to make programming
decisions in the future.
For the longer answer, a bit of history is in order. In October of this
year, cable network WGN was required by WB to discontinue carrying WB
programming. Previously, WGN carried about 15 hours a week of WB programming.
In partnering with cable network WGN, WB was able to cover much of the
country with its programs. However, as new broadcast stations signed on
as WB affiliates, they found themselves competing with WGN the cable network.
Sometimes the same WB programs aired simultaneously on a broadcast station
and on cable WGN. This created advertising revenue problems for WB.
WB's plan is to become the "fifth network" joining ABC, CBS, NBC, and
FOX. In most of the top 100 television markets in the nation, they are
carried as a broadcast channel. In smaller markets like ours (#145) where
there is not a broadcast affiliate, they allow carriage as a cable network
if there is no broadcast station that wishes to air its programs.
As of today, no local broadcaster in Alaska has elected to pick-up WB
programming. As an alternative, WB wants space on GCI's cable system.
However, at this time, there is no room for additional channels without
bumping an existing channel.
Decisions on how to use cable channels come from many market demands and
competitive positioning. Therefore, decisions regarding which and how
many channels we make available need to be considered with the introduction
of new technologies. Operations and marketing--as a group--carefully review
the bandwidth available and work together to find the most efficient use,
while striving to meet customer demand, a future vision and company objectives.
Beyond these considerations, several factors influence programming decisions:
customer's comments, industry and local research, FCC guidelines, the
local certificate authority, current cable network contracts, cost, marketing
support from the programmers, ratings, demographics of our market, and
channel capacity limitations.
It is also very difficult, if not impossible, to just simply drop a cable
network. Simply put, all networks have loyal viewers who would be as angered
if we eliminated their favorite channel. In addition, our agreements with
cable television programming networks also require carriage agreements,
so in many instances we are not able to freely drop and add networks.
This is not to say that GCI will not drop and add channels in the future.
But they must fit within a long term strategy, and not be manipulated
by write-in campaigns or obvious marketing ploys. We have even been shown
a 30-second spot produced by WB that blames GCI for "taking Pokemon away"
even though it was WB's decision to pull its programming from WGN without
first securing broadcast coverage of its signal or a digital format.
We do keep our customer's (and our employee's) suggestions on file. In
fact, we log customer requests for cable networks and factor in this feedback
when deciding which channels to add to our cable channel line-up. Each
day we receive suggestions from our customers about cable networks they
would like to have added to our line-up. Our challenge is to balance the
requests of many diverse interests, while striving to provide the best
programming choices and value. Looking forward to 2000 we will continue
to review our options for channel additions with a focus on expansion
of the digital cable service offering.
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