Want a better spot on the dial in New York City? Open up your wallet.
The price of real estate is rising in New York — at least on the TV dial.
Time Warner Cable just rejiggered its lineup of channels in the Big Apple on its cable systems, and the cost of moving to a better neighborhood is pretty steep. According to people familiar with this dance, it is not unheard of for a cable network to pay Time Warner Cable as much as $5 million annually for what it considers to be a good channel position in New York City, which is the nation's No. 1 TV market and home to all the top advertising agencies.
Although it may seem anachronistic in the age of digital video recorders and remote controls, channel position still matters. Being lower on the dial is better than being higher, and being adjacent to other similarly themed channels beats being banished to cable Siberia.
In this latest shift, News Corp.'s FX has jumped from channel 37 to 10, which had been occupied by CNN, which now moves to 78. Unfortunately for CNN, that's not a great neighborhood. Most of the channels in the 70-80 region of the dial are New York City access channels.
Also on the move is NBC Universal's Oxygen, which jumped from 61 to 12. That slot had been occupied by Lifetime, which is moving to 62. Its new neighbor will be Turner's Cartoon Network, which hardly seems like an ideal fit. Cartoon, FYI, had been on channel 22 and was bumped to make room for Discovery Kids, which is now co-owned by Hasbro and getting a makeover for a relaunch.
The move of several Time Warner-owned networks by a cable system owned by the recently spun-off Time Warner Cable has led many to joke that old family ties don't count for much anymore. However, Time Warner Cable did not move TNT or TBS, so draw your own conclusions.
The losers in all this are the viewers who every few years have to relearn the dial.
— Joe Flint
Photo: Empire State Building and Chrysler Building. Credit: Richard Drew/Associated Press