Time Warner Cable rang in the New Year by shedding the low-rated Ovation channel from its lineup.
Ovation, an independent channel dedicated to arts programming, was notified in mid-December that the cable company would not be carrying them after December 31.
And according to Time Warner Cable, other under-performing networks are also being scrutinized. Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt told an industry group in early December that the company could no longer keep passing costs of low-rated channels on to customers who aren’t tuning in.
"We’re going to take a hard look at each service, and those services that cost too much relative to viewership, we’re going to drop them," Britt told the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference in New York.
According to Time Warner Cable, “Ovation is among the poorest performing networks, and is viewed by less than 1 percent of our customers on any given day."
The CEO’s message of being more fiscally discerning is echoed by Keith Poston, the director of communications for Time Warner Cable for eastern North Carolina. Because of steeply escalating programming costs, Poston says, the company is obligated to assess each network as agreements come up for renewal.
“We have a responsibility to select unique, affordable and compelling options to offer to our customers,” said Poston. “Tough decisions, such as whether to continue carriage or move a network to another tier, are quickly becoming a fact of life for us at Time Warner Cable.”
Carl Meredith is one local viewer upset about Ovation’s removal from his Time Warner lineup. Meredith and his wife, who live near Clayton, are big fans of Ovation’s reruns of the original British version of “Antiques Roadshow.” Meredith said he had his DVR set to record the episodes during the day and they would watch them together at night. Now, he gets a blue screen telling him Time Warner Cable no longer carries Ovation.
“Between deleting channels and their track record of outages, I’m just not getting my money’s worth,” said Meredith. “If they’re going to keep on taking away stuff and keep on raising the prices, that’s a double hit.”
A statement released by Ovation complained that Time Warner Cable focuses too much on sports programming and offers no other arts options. Ovation has some original arts programming, but mostly relies on airing concerts and documentaries about artists and musicians. This fall, the channel debuted an original six-part biography series about Johnny Cash called “Song by Song.”
The channel has begun a social media campaign to put pressure on Time Warner Cable to restore them to their lineup, and currently has more than 25,000 signatures on a petition at www.keepovation.com.
Ovation is still available on local carriers DirecTV, AT&T U-verse, and Dish Network.
Other channels that were danger of being dropped by Time Warner Cable are IFC, WE TV, Current TV and channels owned by Crown Media Holdings, which includes the Hallmark Channel. The cable company renewed its deals with low-rated Current TV and with Crown, and approved negotiation extensions with IFC and WE TV.
Time Warner Cable recently added BBC World News to their lineup (available locally on channels 409 and 1409).
UPDATE: On Wednesday evening, shortly after it was announced that Current TV is being sold to pan-Arab news giant Al Jazeera, Time Warner Cable said it would drop the service as quickly as possible. The plan is for Current, which right now airs locally on TWC channel 413, to become Al Jazeera America.
No word on exactly when the channel will be removed from TWC's lineup. UPDATE: Current TV has already been removed from the Time Warner Cable lineup.