TV Deprived In The Largest TV Market

Adam Buckman: On my cable system, Time Warner Cable in New York City, multicast networks are given short shrift. I have, at my count, seven of them. All seven are available in a diginet ghetto located way up on the 1200 block of Time Warner’s Manhattan channel lineup — from MeTV at ch. 1239 to Get TV at ch. 1284. They — and TWC's subscribers — deserve better.

To paraphrase a famous TV slogan from long ago, “I want my MeTV!”

I don’t go around reciting this tagline adapted from MTV, but it’s true that MeTV is the one multicast network I watch most often, of those that are available to me on my Time Warner Cable system here in New York City.

And that’s not saying much. A source recently threw out a number of the multicast programming networks — the so-called diginets — that he estimated are out there these days and, more or less off the top of his head, he said it was 57. Meanwhile, here in the nation’s largest city — in Manhattan, no less — I have, at my count, seven of them.

The fault may be Time Warner Cable’s. The website of some of the nation’s most widely distributed diginets reveal that they do have affiliation agreements in the New York DMA.

For example, Katz Broadcasting’s male-skewing network called Grit — reportedly covering 93% of the country — is available in the New York metro on Verizon Fios and RCN via affiliations with WJLP and Univision-owned WXTV. But Time Warner doesn’t carry it.

It’s the same with some of the other better known diginets. Time Warner in New York doesn’t have Katz’s female-focused Escape and comedy network Laff, Tribune’s This TV, or Weigel’s Heroes & Icons and Decades.


What do they have? Three TV “oldies” channels — Weigel’s MeTV, Tribune’s Antenna TV and NBCU’s Cozi TV; Weigel’s Movies!; Fremantle’s Buzzr (vintage game shows); Sony’s Get TV (movies and some classic TV shows); and the Live Well Network, which airs only on subchannels of ABC-owned stations, including WABC here.

All seven are available in a diginet ghetto located way up on the 1200 block of Time Warner’s Manhattan channel lineup — from MeTV at ch. 1239 to Get TV at ch. 1284 (there are blanks spaces between some of them, and some other channels scattered in there too).

The only reason I’m even aware that they are there is because they were once located much farther down in the lineup — somewhere in the 160s, if memory serves — and I liked MeTV so much that I made a point of making the effort to find out what Time Warner had done with it during one of its periodic and mysterious channel restructurings.

Needless to say, segregating the diginets in the proverbial nosebleed seats of the channel lineup might provide an indication of the importance Time Warner places on these channels in New York (and possibly elsewhere).

Generally speaking, Time Warner is doing them a disservice. For one thing, dozens of the leading cable channels actually get two slots (or more) on the TWC channel lineup here in the choicest part of the lineup, channels 1-200. And the diginets, by and large, earn greater consideration, based on their content, than a number of them.

Taken together, the three vintage-TV channels are especially valuable. They add up to a treasure trove of old TV shows stretching all the way back to 1949 on up to at least the 1990s — easily the most comprehensive collection of older TV shows ever to be made available on ad-supported television at any one time. And they have a sprightly way of presenting the shows and making them fun.

For example, MeTV promotes its vintage lawyer shows Perry Mason and Matlock with a promo spot that’s a spoof of contemporary lawyer commercials, in which the two are reimagined as partners in a two-man law firm, Mason & Matlock.

Another promo for both The Twilight Zone and Kojak on MeTV has Telly Savalas talking to himself on the phone in scenes intercut from a black-and-white episode of Twilight Zone, and a scene from Kojak in which he’s seen talking on the phone. The promos are great and so is a great deal of the other interstitial creative seen on MeTV and the others.

Speaking of interstitial treasures, Buzzr includes vintage commercials and sponsored bumpers in some of its old game shows, particularly the ones from the black-and-white era. It’s just fascinating.

Not so fascinating, and also a little bit creepy, is the Live Well Network’s continued reliance on the Canadian talk-and-lifestyle show Steven and Chris hosted by home-design mavens Steven Sabados and Chris Hyndman. The show ended production last summer following Hyndman’s sudden and mysterious death in Toronto and yet, Live Well Network continues to run the show as if he’s still alive. It’s just weird.

I am eager to someday see Laff, Escape, Grit, Decades, Heroes & Icons and any other diginet Time Warner gets around to adding to its cable offerings here. Message to Time Warner (soon to become known as Spectrum following the merger with Charter): These multicast networks are here to stay. Get used to it.

TVNewsCheck contributor Adam Buckman also writes the daily TV blog, “Small Screen, Big Picture,” for He can be reached at [email protected].

This is Part 3 of a four-part special report on multicasting. Parts 1 and 2 also appear today. Part 4, running Thursday morning, will focus on the technology of compression and channel sharing. You can read the other stories here.

Comments (19)

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Gregg Palermo says:

July 27, 2016 at 9:33 am

It’s just a channel number. Just because lower-numbered channels once ruled the airwaves does not mean higher-numbered channels are ignored. My teenagers spend a lot of time in the nosebleed numbers and they never, ever, complain because it’s no big deal to them. A channel number is a whole lot shorter than a URL.

    Linda Stewart says:

    July 27, 2016 at 9:40 am

    On my Fios system in Chatham, N.J., MeTV falls between WCBS and WNBC. It makes a big, big difference.

    Veronica Serrano Padilla says:

    July 27, 2016 at 1:21 pm

    Mr. Jessell, was WJLP not the station embroiled in a controversy about wanting their virtual channel to match their physical channel, despite adjacent markets that were using that channel? I suspected at the time that the only reason they were pushing hard to use channel 3 was to give them leverage with MVPDs on channel placement. Must have worked… and worked well. That said, the FCC database has them listed as using virtual channel 33.

    Terry D'Esposito says:

    July 27, 2016 at 1:45 pm

    Mr. Jessell, in the case of WJLP, they carry Me-TV on their .1 main channel, which affords them prime coverage on FiOS and other systems. For FiOS customers in other markets where their Me-TV affiliate (and affiliates of other diginets) are on subchannels .2 or higher, FiOS places those channels between 460 and 499, just below the HD versions of main .1 stations (which air on channel 500 and above).

    Wagner Pereira says:

    July 27, 2016 at 1:47 pm

    On Verizon FiOS systems, the Diginets are in the 460-499 range while the main Digital .1 Channels are in the 500-549 range (along with Local Origination/Government Channels). It is on Channel 3 (503 on your FiOS system) because MeTV is on the main channel of WJLP-TV.

Greg Johnson says:

July 27, 2016 at 12:59 pm

Every carrier offers a “favorites” channel button. Channel argument is a 20th century argument. The cost of marketing channels off-air is an option if the “favorites” option is unappealing or OTT boxes where numbers are not a factor. P&G, GM, and all advertisers pay for omni-channel marketing to build demand, not including the cost of distribution. I am sure there are incentives that will get a diginet a meaningless channel number if they approach distributors. The P&L’s for programmers, distributors, marketing and G&A. Diginets have P&L’s. Broadcasters should raise the question of marketing investments. It really works. And in the case of earned media that can communicate with core community members for FREE.

Veronica Serrano Padilla says:

July 27, 2016 at 1:45 pm

Since I’ve disagreed with Ted at ACA the past few days, let me make it up to him by posting his daily “drive-by shooting”: Maybe @nabtweets and the TV #cashcasters can lobby the FCC to require the placement of all digi nets on cable’s basic tier… we know they deserve better placement than all those other cable networks … and to heck with the disruption and how much it will cost consumers… please follow me on Twitter: @TedTheCableGuy

    Wagner Pereira says:

    July 27, 2016 at 1:50 pm

    ….Since we’ve seen ACA doesn’t know how to lobby effectively.

    Veronica Serrano Padilla says:

    July 27, 2016 at 2:18 pm

    @Insider: Oops, I see you failed the reading comprehension test once again!! Can’t identify sarcasm when you see it… darn Yankee schools…

    Wagner Pereira says:

    July 27, 2016 at 4:22 pm

    I attended Southern Schools. Another typical fail on your behalf.

    Veronica Serrano Padilla says:

    July 27, 2016 at 6:23 pm

    LMAO….some of us didn’t just attend, but graduated…

    Wagner Pereira says:

    July 27, 2016 at 11:19 pm

    Wrong again, as typical. 2 degrees.

Wagner Pereira says:

July 27, 2016 at 1:55 pm

@Adam – Better to be in the “ghetto” than not carried at all, such as the 33% of MVPD Subs that use Dish and DirecTV are aware (or not) of, would you not agree? Clearly there is not a big outcry for these as there is for the main local channels or DBS would be toast in sub count.

    Veronica Serrano Padilla says:

    July 27, 2016 at 2:23 pm

    @Insider: good point… inclusion of all dig nets on satellite… something else @nabtweets and the #cashcasters are likely lobbying for at the expense of millions of pay TV subscribers… (Ted, I’m on a roll… where’s my ACA T-shirt?)

    Wagner Pereira says:

    July 27, 2016 at 4:23 pm

    They cannot afford T-shirts with only $4m of income. Need to pay those Salaries and Travel Expenses!

Geoffrey Miller says:

July 27, 2016 at 5:21 pm

Diginets have some popular programs. Cable and Satellite companies don’t pay any retransmission fees to the diginets, so why not give their subscribers more channels to view? Instead of giving consumers more of what they want they continue to poke them in the eye. They have been monopolies too long to understand free enterprise and the customer is king.

    Veronica Serrano Padilla says:

    July 27, 2016 at 6:28 pm

    You can be assured that many broadcasters require their sub channels to be included on cable as part of retrans agreements… thus MVPDs in some cases are paying for the diginets.

    Wagner Pereira says:

    July 27, 2016 at 11:23 pm

    Part of their retransmission agreement and paying extra for it are 2 different things, but as you have proven to have no knowledge of actual retrans contracts, of course you wouldn’t have a clue.

Keith ONeal says:

July 27, 2016 at 10:25 pm

Diginets ~ Bright House Networks in Central Florida (soon to be Spectrum) has Get TV, Cozi TV, Estrella TV, Antenna TV, This TV, Me TV, and Laff. That’s it. 7 Diginets. There’s plenty of diginets that should be there but isn’t.