News

Investing in Channel Real Estate

7/25/2009 2:00 AM Eastern

In New York City real estate, it’s always about location and dollars.

Even on the cable system.

Just when we thought the multi-hundred-channel universe of electronic guides and digital video recorders made channel numbers superfluous, comes a rearrangement of several channels under 30 on Time Warner Cable in New York that has a few networks crowing and a few declining comment. Nobody’s talking about dollars on the record, but it’s universally acknowledged lower numbers on the dial in the Big Apple cost big bucks that can lead to big paybacks in ratings, sampling by Madison Avenue buyers and ad sales.

We reported that a move by four networks to lower channels in New York in 2007 cost NBC Universal “several million dollars.” I was told a shift years ago by Court TV to channel 23 from a higher slot cost around $1 million.

This time, TWC can offer up lower slots in the HD neighborhood, too: FX gets the channel 10 and channel 710 slots in next month’s move (detailed at Multichannel.com), departing 37 and 737.

Pali Capital analyst Rich Greenfield thinks deals like this won’t be available forever, as guides improve and channel location means less. It matters now to Investigation Discovery, taking over rival TruTV’s channel 23; and to Oxygen, taking over rival Lifetime’s channel 12.

ID chief Henry Schleiff said Court TV (now TruTV), his former employer, cashed in when it moved to channel 23. Oxygen chief Jason Klarman said the same was true for Bravo when it slotted into channel 18.

Last quarter, ad sales at Oxygen were up 30% year over year, Klarman said, and now the upfront auction is underway.

“People are buying into the brand, the brand strategy, the target audience,” Klarman said. “This is another confirmation that we’re serious about investing and making this channel great and raising its profile.”

Said Schleiff: “We are taking away literally the ground that was previously held by Court TV, TruTV, and saying this is ours. We are now the premier investigation network in the country.”

Money talks — as much as ever.

September