TCI reinstates cablers

In its first clear capitulations to viewer backlash against its dropping of networks from a cable-system lineup, Tele-Communications Inc. has agreed to reinstate A&E and the Nashville Network to its systems in Hous-ton, Texas, where the networks had been dropped, and to relaunch MTV as part of its Grand Junction, Colo., lineup.

To accommodate TCI’s limited channel capacity in many of its Houston systems that serve a total of about 350,000 subscribers, the two cable networks will share a channel — TNN running from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. and A&E through the night and early morning hours — beginning late Monday night, a TCI spokeswoman said Thursday.

In a release issued Thursday afternoon, TCI maintained that it was putting the services back due to the 300 letters and thousands of telephone calls it had received in complaint since deep-sixing the pair on Dec. 30. A&E was lost to roughly 93,000 customers and TNN to some 144,000 subs.

Most of the highly vocal protesting surrounded the sudden unavailability of weekend NASCAR auto racing on TNN and the nightly “Biography” documentary series on A&E. WGN, which was dropped at the same time as TNN and A&E, will not be brought back, and the spokeswoman stressed that there have been no complaints de-manding its return.

To make room for the shared channel, Houston systems that had picked up the Cartoon Network will now find it gone again.

TCI issued a brief release late Thursday confirming the return of MTV to the TCI system in Grand Junction that had dropped the Viacom network at the beginning of the year. It will return MTV to its expanded basic lineup “as soon as is practical,” according to the release, and will be carried full time on the system’s Channel 38.

Customer feedback

In putting MTV back on, TCI said its decision is based on “customer feedback and the advice of local management.” TCI’s systems in Des Moines, Iowa, Grand Rapids, Mich., and Altamonte Springs, Fla., however, will continue to keep MTV off for the time being.

TCI has been angering subscribers in markets throughout the U.S. over the past several months by opting to drop such established cable networks as Lifetime, MTV, Comedy Central, E! Entertainment Television, WGN and VH1 and replacing them with new services such as Animal Planet (in which TCI has a financial stake) and Home & Garden Television that have been paying systems in exchange for carriage.

The spokeswoman in Houston said that the networks were originally bounced due to their expense and because they are not protected by no-drop clauses.

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