May 26, 2018
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Time Warner Cable drops NECN, adds Al Jazeera America and Smithsonian

A cable truck returns to a Time Warner Cable office in San Diego, Calif., this week.
By Whit Richardson, BDN Staff

Come the new year, Time Warner Cable customers no longer will be able to watch the New England Cable News channel with its regional weather reports and 24-hour news offerings.

Time Warner Cable has said that as of Dec. 31 it would drop NECN, now available to everyone with basic cable in New England, from its channel lineup. That followed an announcement earlier this month from Time Warner Cable that it was adding several channels to its lineup, including Al Jazeera America and Smithsonian.

“We’re always evaluating the value of the programming on our lineup, and we occasionally add or drop channels,” Scott Pryzwansky, Time Warner Cable’s director of public relations, wrote to the Bangor Daily News in an email. “We do not believe NECN represents a good value for all of our New England customers. Value includes several factors, including cost, viewership and unique content.”

Pryzwansky wouldn’t offer more details on its programming agreements with NECN, which is owned by NBC Universal, a division of Comcast Corp.

NECN is based in studios in Newton, Mass., and operates five bureaus in the region, including one in Portland.

In a statement, Mike St. Peter, NECN’s general manager, expressed disappointment with Time Warner Cable’s decision.

“We just recently added over five additional hours per day of live regional news coverage and are actively investing in improving our service to our viewers,” St. Peter stated in a statement sent to the BDN. “We have negotiated with Time Warner Cable, and are very disappointed in their decision, which will result in fewer options and diminished service for their New England customers.”

Philip Laine, a Lewiston resident, is disappointed in Time Warner Cable’s decision to drop the channel. He likes the regional weather forecasts and NECN’s early evening news broadcasts. Since he usually goes to bed at 10 p.m., the local news broadcasts come on too late for him.

“I will miss it,” he said.

The loss of NECN won’t be the only change some Time Warner Cable customers notice.

Time Warner Cable announced earlier this month that it was adding several channels to its lineup, including Al Jazeera America, the Smithsonian channel, Starz On Demand and Encore On Demand.

Because Al Jazeera America and NECN are both news channels, many news outlets have conflated the two events and speculated that the former is replacing the latter, but Pryzwansky said that’s not the case.

“The addition of AJA on Dec. 6 and announced drop of NECN to take place on Dec. 31 are completely unrelated and very different,” he said. “The channels are on different tiers and of a different scope.”

While NECN is a regional news network available to anyone with basic cable, Al Jazeera America offers national and international news, competing with the likes of CNN and MSNBC, and will only be available to those with Preferred TV subscriptions. Qatar-based Al Jazeera Media Network launched Al Jazeera America in August. It has 12 bureaus in the United States, the closest to Maine being in New York City, its headquarters.

Marissa Lopez, a Bangor resident, expressed excitement for the addition of Al Jazeera America in a post on the BDN’s Facebook page.

“I AM SO EXCITED!! I have never watched NECN (although I’m sure they did a great job)… but Al Jazeera America is a great news organization, covering many things the US mainstream media don’t… or at least with a different, more world view,” she wrote.

Time Warner Cable’s decision to drop NECN has generated backlash from some subscribers. In Berkshire County, Massachusetts, which is technically in the Albany, N.Y., cable news market, a local state representative has sent a letter to the state’s congressional delegation asking them to step in to help save NECN, which he characterizes as the county’s “last link to the rest of their state,” according to the Berkshire Eagle.

However, Pryzwansky said backlash from customers will not prompt Time Warner Cable to bring NECN back.

“We are certainly happy to keep an open line of communication but we have no plans to [reverse our decision] at this time,” he said.

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