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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 programming.

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.

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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 decisions.

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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