Following much industry speculation, cable giants Comcast and Time Warner have announced they will indeed launch family-targeted programming packages as part of their digital cable offerings at the beginning of this year. The new tiers will feature nothing but G-rated programming, and to head off the type of controversy that has sprung up around several live events over the past two years, both companies claim they will limit the amount of live programming on the family tiers.
The move comes after much public urging from Federal Communications Commission chair Kevin J. Martin to cut down on what he calls ‘coarse programming’ on television, and give parents more suitable options for their kids. This is just one family-friendly option Martin has vocally supported recently; others include an à la carte cable payment plan that would allow consumers to buy one channel at a time, and penning legislation to tighten federal regulations on indecent content.
Comcast’s offering features 16 family-targeted networks out of a total of 35 to 40 possible candidates. Along with all the local/national broadcast channels (such as ABC, NBC, CBS, UPN, WB, FOX and PBS), the new Family Tier includes primarily G-rated content from networks including Disney Channel, PBS Kids Sprout, Discovery Kids and Nickelodeon. The new package rolls out nationally this month to 99% of Comcast’s market that has digital cable service and costs an additional US$14.95 per month.
The Time Warner package is similar, but with 15 channels in total rather than 16. Its lineup features Disney Channel, Discovery Kids, Nick Games & Sports and Toon Disney, but also includes Turner’s retro-themed Boomerang channel. It will cost Time Warner’s basic service subscribers an additional US$12.99 to pick up the Family Choice Tier.
Notably absent from both schemes is Cartoon Network, likely because the late night Adult Swim block is decidedly not G-rated.