AOL Time Warner Bows to NBC Pressure over CNBC Channel Placement

03 August 2001

AOL Time Warner has reversed a decision to shift financial news network CNBC to a less attractive New York City cable channel following pressure from the broadcaster’s parent NBC.

AOL TW unit Time Warner Cable last week informed its 1.1 million subscribers in New York that it would be moving CNBC from channel number 15 to 64, effective September 5. The move would have shunted CNBC onto a higher and far less appealing channel than any other major network – slotted between Home and Garden and the pay-per-view pornographic Spice Channel.

NBC argued that the move was an example of AOL TW abusing its ownership of both broadcasters and cable delivery systems – CNBC would have been pushed back well beyond AOL TW’s own financial news network CNNfn, currently on channel 27.

Taking CNBC’s place at the number 15 slot would have been entertainment broadcaster Bravo, 20%-owned by NBC, which had paid Time Warner Cable for a more favorable channel number. NBC forged an agreement with Bravo that the two networks should switch back to their original channel numbers, a proposal the cable group accepted.

NBC had threatened to lodge an antitrust claim against AOL TW. Even though there are no regulations governing the allocation of channel numbers, antitrust experts believe AOL TW could still violate competition law should it use its monopoly status as a cable provider to benefit its own broadcasters.

News source: Wall Street Journal