Charter Channel Realignment Causes Ruckus in Oregon


Charter Communications officials in Medford, Ore., thought they were making life easier for customers and themselves when they announced they were altering the channel lineup there earlier this month.

“We recognize that changing the lineup can be startling at first, but once customers get the hang of it, they will wonder why we didn’t do it sooner,” Charter area manager Mike O’Herron said in a prepared statement.

These changes are part of Charter’s attempt to standardize channel lineups and rates across its northwest cable systems. Charter Northwest VP and GM Frank Antonovich said, “Over the last few years, we have substantially upgraded our cable systems to provide more consistency for new services, but our lineups have varied widely. The changes we are announcing will make it much easier to provide uniformly excellent customer service from employees with fewer variations to remember or look up.”

Charter mailed new lineup cards to customers and trained its employees on the changes so they could answer customer queries. And that is where things began to break down. Although the MSO made the announcement to media outlets via fax and e-mail, the bulk mail notices did not reach customers before the changes. Charter expected channel cards to begin appearing in customer’s mailboxes a couple days prior to the channel revamping. But the channel cards were held up between the printer and the post office, O’Herron told The Medford News.

Naturally, the company was deluged with phone calls and e-mail messages complaining about the lack of notice and the changes themselves. “We touch 54,000 homes and there is a correlation between the more people touched and more phone calls,” O’Herron told the newspaper. “Any time we change channels or rates, no matter how small or big, the [response] numbers feel big.”

The shuffle was the final straw for some subscribers. Bryan Perry, who runs an adult foster home in the area, told The Medford News that a converter box, which costs $6.95 a month, is required to receive some of the channels.

“Essentially they’re saying people can’t get what they want because they don’t have digital box,” Perry told the newspaper. “When I called, Charter said there was a place on the Web site to voice grievances. But I don’t have Internet [access].”