Time Warner Launches Family Tier


Now we know what Time Warner thinks is family-friendly.

Hoping to placate regulators, Time Warner Cable said Thursday it would launch a tier of family programming.
While the 15-channel tier will include one top network --The Disney Channel -- it is composed largely of spinoffs of cable's most popular networks.
The new Family Choice tier will include: Boomerang, C-SPAN 2, C-SPAN 3, CNN Headline News, The Science Channel, Discovery Kids, Disney Channel, Toon Disney, DIY Network, FIT-TV, Food Network, HGTV, La Familia, Nick Games & Sports, and The Weather Channel.
Notable absences from the tier are the major news networks, kids channel Nickelodeon, Time Warner's own Cartoon Network (which also carries adult content) and Discovery Channel.
Time Warner spokesman Mark Harrad says that the reason the news channel was CNN Headline News rather than CNN or Fox News Channel was that CNN Headline's primarily shorter, prepackaged clips made it less likely that any age member of the family would sit down and find something objectionable at any time of day, which was the company's test for the tier--hence the absence of Cartoon.

The networks are all considered "G-rated" by Time Warner Cable executives, and they do not have live entertainment programming. By G-rated, the company said it meant channels that "did not include 'live' entertainment programming and which contained content that was generally perceived as acceptable for the entire family to view." 

The tier will be rolled out during the first quarter of 2006 and cost $12.99 monthly. The tier is a digital cable package requiring many subscribers to pay more for a new converter for many customers.
Subscribers will still have to buy the broadcast basic tier for around $12 monthly. That tier of 15-20 channels includes the broadcast stations, public, educational and government access channels, C-SPAN and some additional channels varying by market--New York 1 in New York, for example.
But they will not have to buy enhanced basic or any other digital tier. 

“Our customers have always had the tools to actively exclude any channel or program they might find objectionable for their families,” Glenn Britt, chairman and CEO of Time Warner Cable, said in a statement. “This new family tier will offer our customers yet another way to obtain kid-friendly programs without the need for them to take an active role in monitoring shows and deciding on which ones to proactively block from their TV set.”

National Cable & Telecommunications Association President Kyle McSlarrow Monday told the Senate Commerce Committee during an indecency hearing that operators representing over 50% of U.S. subs would be announcing family-freindly tiers, some within the next week or so, saying that should take mandated a la carte off the table.

Commerce Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) was hoping the effort would obviate the need for regulation and placate cable critics, but several groups, including Parents Television Council (PTC), Concerned Women for America and Consumers Union, said Thursday the tiers are not sufficient unless the channels are chosen by the viewers in customized packages (a la carte), not by the operators or programmers.

PTC President Brent Bozell called the Time Warner tier a "“a very bad joke. It is perfectly obvious Time Warner is deliberately offering a product designed to fail," he said, going through a laundry list of what he said were family-appropriate channels that weren't in the tier, including ESPN, Turner Classic Movies, Fox News Channel, and a couple dozen more."I bet you couldn’t find five employees of Time Warner who would subscribe to this foolishness for their own families," he said in a statement.