CBS Gets Back into the Cable TV Game

CBS, America’s Most Watched Network, is getting back into the cable television game, having acquired the channel TVGN (formerly known as the TV Guide Network) and, and will operate both with co-owner Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. The cable channel was acquired from JP Morgan Chase & Co., the previous owner, with estimates placing the value around $100 million.

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CBS Corp. was formed in 2006, when Viacom split into two companies in an effort to let the cable side, which kept the Viacom name, grow without the drag of the more mature and slower-growing CBS. Now the broadcast side is getting back into basic cable.

The owners plan to announce a new programming and branding strategy later, but the channel will continue its focus on entertainment, according to the statement. The channel is available in more than 80 million homes, the companies said, and will benefit from CBS’s “programming, distribution and marketing assets.”

The revamped channel sounds like it could pose more competition for networks including E!, part of NBC Universal. Its lineup currently includes shows such as “Celebrity Style Story,” which tracks how stars’ style has changed, but also goes heavy on syndicated repeats of shows including “Designing Women,” “Who’s the Boss?” and “Dharma & Greg.”

“This is a strategic way for CBS to use its content brands and gain access to a highly distributed basic cable network that has a lot of upside,” CBS Corp. President-CEO Leslie Moonves said in the statement.

The deal does not include TV Guide magazine, which is owned separately.

CBS has been very successful in developing a formula to remain the most watched broadcast network, with police procedurals and affable, middle-of-the-road comedies dominating the lineup, along with NFL football and 60 Minutes. If they can successfully pull that off on cable as well, they’ll be unstoppable.

Cable TV Premieres for Spring

While the weather may not seem like it in much of the country, spring is upon us, which means one thing for longtime cable TV viewers: premieres of new shows and old favorites. Here are just a few of the high-profile premieres happening this spring:

  • Mad Men Season Six – Mad Men returns April 7 on AMC, the critical and popular hit that many see as the best show currently airing on television. Now the show has moved chronologically into the latter part of the 1960s.
  • Veep Season Two – HBO’s half-hour comedy about a hapless Vice President played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus of Seinfeld fame returns April 14. The first season whet the appetites of many comedy fans, and the second season is longer, with ten episodes instead of a mere eight.
  • Awkward Season Three – MTV’s teen comedy, which returns April 16, is surprisingly good, entertaining even those outside its target market. This year’s season brings twenty episodes instead of the previous twelve.
  • Louis CK: Oh My God – This HBO comedy special premieres on April 13 and showcases the man who’s simply the best standup working today. His fourth special promises to be profane, inappropriate, oddly touching and most of all really effing funny.
  • Arrested Development Season Four – The cult favorite comedy returns in May, not to broadcast or cable TV, but to Netflix. While it’s not for everyone, its audience has grown on DVD since its original broadcast run, meaning this should be a big hit for the Netflix streaming service.
  • Game of Thrones Season Three – The violent, sexy, sprawling fantasy epic returns to HBO on March 31, which is this Sunday. Scheming, backstabbing, sex, swords and dragons will all likely make more than one appearance.

These aren’t the only premiering and returning favorites: Dr. Who, Nurse Jackie, The Big C and The Borgias also make their return this spring.

Set your DVRs!

Cable Provider Comcast Bans Ads for Guns and Ammunition

According to a USA Today report, cable TV provider Comcast Cable made the decision last month, after finalizing its purchase of NBCUniversal, to ban advertisements for guns, ammunition, and fireworks. Gun stores in areas served by Comcast Cable are looking for new ways to advertise following the newly-instituted ban, which follows suit with previous NBCUniversal policies.

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“Consistent with long-standing NBC policies, Comcast Spotlight has decided it will not accept new advertising for firearms or weapons moving forward,” said spokesman Chris Ellis of Comcast’s advertising sales division, Comcast Spotlight. Comcast has operations in 39 states and the District of Columbia.

Time Warner Cable announced in January – about a month after a gunman in Newtown, Conn., killed 27 people including 20 children – that it would no longer allow ads showing semiautomatic weapons and guns pointed at people, according to Multichannel News magazine. Time Warner (TWC), the country’s second largest cable provider, operates in 29 states.

Privately held Cox Communications, which has customers in more than 20 states and is No. 3 in size, already had restrictions on certain types of weapons ads.

NBC says in its ad policy that it doesn’t accept advertisements for weapons or fireworks, but commercials that include them as props will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

However, the NBC Sports Network, a cable channel, continues to accept commercials for weapons used for hunting, such as shotguns and rifles, the Los Angeles Times said. Handguns, semi-automatic and automatic weapons and ammunition are banned.

Comcast, Cox and Time Warner don’t list the firearms ad restrictions on their websites.

Satellite TV providers such as DIRECTV and DISH Network, which provide service in many rural areas cable companies do not reach, have no bans in place for gun or ammunition advertisements.

Cable TV Providers Seek to Break up Forced Bundles

Two leading cable TV providers in the United States, Cablevision and Verizon, are publicly pressing media companies that own programming to stop pushing them to distribute unwanted channels. Cable viewers have long complained about paying for channels they never watch; what’s changed now is that cable companies, facing losses in subscriber counts, are beginning to agree, and are pushing the content companies to change their tune.

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If successful, the efforts could lead to cheaper options for consumers and a sea change in how the television industry has done business — and protected its profits — for more than two decades.

Such change has become necessary, Cablevision and other cable companies argue, as more Americans cut their cable cord in favor of cheaper Web-based video provided by Netflix, Apple and Today, 5 million households get their television solely from the Internet, up from 2 million in 2007, according to Nielsen.

But Hollywood and media companies have said that breaking up the bundles would lead to the demise of smaller niche programming that does not have mass-market appeal.

Analysts say it is too early to tell whether the spat between cable firms and their media partners will lead to lower bills or the long-sought goal of consumer advocates: a la carte TV. Even the federal government has failed in its efforts to persuade the television industry to charge viewers only for what they watch.

The dispute is being closely watched because it has broad implications for consumers, as well as for the way television is funded and created.

This is the beginning of a long battle, and it seems like it will be a long time before providers like Charter Communications and DIRECTV are able to offer a la carte programming. But in the end, it should be the consumers who will win out, as it’s the only way the pay TV industry can survive.

Big River Broadband Adds More High Speed Internet for Southeast Missouri

High speed internet and phone services are set to improve in Southeast Missouri with a new tower release from Big River Broadband. The new tower from the 4G LTE Broadband Network to be released is located near Highway H off of Highway 67 in St. Francois County.

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This latest tower release will be hosting the Broadband Mobile Retail Store on March 25th and 26th, from 9am-5pm, at Forget-Me-Not Antiques and Collectibles off of Hwy H, just off the exit from Hwy 67.  “Big River Broadband is excited to turn on another tower to continue our efforts to deliver High-Speed Internet access to Southeast Missouri, with the most advanced network available in the industry!” said Mike Howe, General Manager of Big River Broadband.  Stop by anytime, at the tower release, to meet with the Big River Broadband Retail Sales Executives to check for coverage and package availability at your home or business.

Offering both High-Speed Internet and telephone, Big River offers you high quality service for your telecommunication needs. You can pre-order service and pick up your device at the BigBus on either day, or from either Broadband location in Farmington or Cape Girardeau, starting Wednesday, March 20th, up to the day of the event. You can also sign up the day of for services at any location and take your device home with you at that same time. Call 855-55-GO-Big for more information regarding this tower release or with any broadband related questions you may have.

Big River Broadband ( is a wireless broadband and cellular service company focused on Southeast Missouri.  Like its parent company, Big River Telephone, it is a customer focused entity delivering the Advanced Wireless Services (AWS)/Long-Term Evolution (LTE) platform to the region. Headquartered in Farmington, Missouri it continues to rapidly grow as the information movement and management partner for residential and business customers.

The more companies available offering such services the better, as competition will bring down prices and make high speed internet and phone services more affordable for consumers.

After Rate Increases, AT&T U-Verse Offers Free Devices

AT&T’s price hikes for 2013 include an additional $2 surcharge for broadcast TV. In order to combat these price hikes, they are offering new subscribers to their broadband bundle packages the choice of a free Xbox, Kindle Fire HD Tablet, Nexus 7 Tablet, or Sonos music system.

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The 2013 price increases, which took effect with Jan. 27 billing statements, include a $1.99 surcharge for local broadcast TV channels “to recover a portion of the amount local broadcasters charge AT&T to carry their channels,” according to the telco. TV plans increased by $2 per month and broadband tiers increased $3 monthly.

The free-device offer — valued at up to $350, according to AT&T — is set to run through July 27, 2013. New AT&T customers can sign up for special discounted pricing for 12 months.

The device promo is available only for new AT&T Internet customers who take a one-year contract on a qualifying bundle. Customers are notified of their eligibility for the promos within four weeks of service activation, and the Xbox, Kindle Fire, Nexus 7 or Sonos system will be shipped two to three weeks after redemption to customers who retain service for at least 30 days, according to AT&T.

In the fourth quarter of 2012, AT&T gained a net 609,000 U-verse High Speed Internet subscribers to reach a total of 7.7 million — while also losing 611,000 DSL lines in the period. The operator added 192,000 U-verse TV subs to stand at 4.54 million IPTV subscribers as of the end of 2012.

In Q4, about 90% of new U-verse TV customers also signed up for U-verse High Speed Internet. About 70% of TV subs take three or four services from AT&T, and 55% of U-verse broadband subscribers have a plan delivering speeds up to 12 Mbps or higher, according to the telco.

Also Monday, AT&T launched two U-verse TV apps: U-verse Jukebox, which lets users play songs from their mobile devices on TV; and the Interactive Workout App, which can create a customized workout. The apps are available to U-verse TV customers who also have U-verse broadband for no extra charge.

We’d advise that customers not choose AT&T U-Verse purely for the free device, as other companies, such as Charter Communications, do not require a contract to get started. AT&T U-Verse is a good service, it is just advised to make sure it’s the service you want, not just the device.

Keep up with the latest news on rate hikes and more at the TV, Internet and Phone Blog.

Charter Communications Stock Jumps More than 10%

Monday, a report in The Wall Street Journal indicated that Liberty Media, the company headed up by cable TV legend John Malone, plans to acquire 25% of Charter Communications, the leading cable TV provider in a number of major United States markets. The stake would be acquired for $2.5 billion, and news of the potential acquisition caused Charter’s stock to jump more than 10% by the time the markets closed on Monday.

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Charter shares soared on the news – the stock was up as  much as 10.5% ($9.49 per share) to $99.50 each in early Monday trading, settling down to close at $98.04 per share, up 8.8% or $7.95 each. Liberty Media shares closed at $110.66 per share, up 0.3% or 29 cents each.

Officials at Charter and Liberty each declined to comment.

If a deal is announced, it would be Liberty Media’s first foray into U.S. cable distribution since it was part of Tele-Communications Inc., more than two decades ago. TCI was sold in 1999 to AT&T for about $49 billion.

In a research note, Lazard Capital Markets media analyst Barton Crockett wrote that LIberty certainly has the financial firepower for the deal — he estimated the media giant has net cash of about $1.7 billion after the Starz spin and another $1.1 billion in investments in non-core publilcly traded securities that could be sold.

Crockett added the main positive for Liberty is that a deal would show it is putting its cash to work.

“We see rotating from cash and other investments, and into Charter, as having some advantages — Malone knows cable very well, so investors would likely be comfortable with him sticking to his wheelhouse,” Crockett wrote. “Such a move also would dampen speculation about where he will invest the cash horde at Liberty Media. Cash is earning very little now, so the hurdle rate of getting a better return on Charter stock, vs. sitting on cash earning almost nothing now, is low.”

It is not yet known what changes will result if this acquisition does occur, but we’ll keep you informed here at the TV, Internet and Phone Blog as soon as we know more.