TV Food Network speeds up cable bow

Uncertainty about how the 1991 Cable Act will be interpreted by cable systems has prodded the emerging Television Food Network channel into an accelerated timetable.

Scheduled for a Nov. 23 intro as a 24-hour basic-cable channel, TVFN is going to “sneak preview” Aug. 30 with two hours of programming.

TVFN will expand to four hours of programming Sept. 27, then go to its originally planned eight-hour program sked Nov. 23.

The Cable TV Consumer Protection & Competition Act of 1992, which became effective Dec. 4, has caused cable operators to put things on hold, TVFN has found. TVFN wants to get its programming online as quickly as possible, while cable operators are trying to figure out what the new act means and how it’s going to affect their basic businesses.

The new programming service needs to operate as an advertiser-driven free channel. It doesn’t want to wind up on a tier requiring cable subscribers to pay extra fees.

Reese Schonfeld, the former CNN president whose Pacesetter Communications will produce TVFN’s schedule, suggests the introductory programs will give cable operators more time to fit the new service into future plans.

The two-hour programming, beginning Aug. 30, will be repeated continually around the clock.

TVFN was projected to roll out to about 2 million cable homes by the Nov. 23 launch, with 4.9 million homes reached by the end of the first year.

The new service will cost $ 50 million-$ 60 million before reaching breakeven in its fourth year, according to projections.

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