Abandoned by boss, they fold from too-few subscribers

NEW YORK — Fox Family Channel’s digital nets the Boyz Channel and the Girlz Channel will go dark this week, less than a year after they were launched.

News didn’t come as a huge surprise as the two nets had only 100,000 subscribers or so each, and have been without a vocal champion since Rich Cronin ankled his post as Fox Family’s president in May.

Cronin unveiled plans for the two nets in October 1998, saying that as digital-cable platforms roll out, there will be a demand for more niche nets. But digital rollout has taken longer than some expected.

Another strike against the two nets: Unlike programming giants Walt Disney and Turner Broadcasting System, Fox Family doesn’t have retransmission-consent leverage to help secure distribution.

Ironically, Fox Family was close to signing carriage deals for the two nets with AT&T Broadband and Cablevision Systems. But sources say that Fox Family would rather funnel money into its flagging Fox Family flagship net, which is pumping up its primetime programming with newly acquired off-net fare such as “Providence” and “Freaks and Geeks.”

Fox Family will also discontinue the two diginets’ companion Web sites, bChannel.com and gChannel.com.

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