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Comcast moving classic movie channel to sports package

The Comcast logo is seen on a retail store in Sacramento, California on July 3, 2015. (Photo: Matthew Keys / The Desk)

If you love classic movies and you have Comcast, you’d better love sports, too.

Last week, the Philadelphia-area cable TV company announced it was relocating Turner Classic Movies (TCM) from its digital basic package — one of the base pay TV offerings by Comcast — to a sports package that will cost some customers more money.

Comcast said it made the decision to relocate TCM to its sports package because TCM did not attract much of an audience to justify keeping it as part of its basic TV lineup.

“Viewership of TCM is low, as over 90 percent of our customers watch less than two movies per month,” Comcast said in a statement on its website.

The cable company didn’t say if those two movies per month were limited to TCM or across all its offerings, nor did it explain how it knew customers watched an average of two movies per month (though, presumably, Comcast’s own TV hardware like its X1 box gathers information on customer viewing habits that are relayed to analysts at the cable company who then pour over the data as part of the company’s decision-making process over packages — just speculating).

Comcast admitted contractual limitations with TCM’s parent company limits the cable service’s ability to offer TCM as a standalone a-la-carte offering. A loophole in the agreement allows Comcast, which markets cable service under the Xfinity brand, to move the channel to another package — in this case, one intended for sports.

Comcast said the move isn’t unusual because in some TV markets where its Xfinity service is offered, the cable company rolls in other general entertainment channels like some niche digital channels operated by ViacomCBS and A&E Networks, including CMT and the Crime & Investigation Channel.

Comcast defended itself against a hypothetical customer complaint over a decrease in channels but no decrease in monthly bills by pointing the finger at the networks. Comcast said it “absorb(s) a lot portion of these cost increases.”

Comcast earned $75.5 billion in profit on $94.5 billion in revenue last calendar year.

TCM continues to be available on over-the-top streaming services, including YouTube TV, Hulu with Live TV, Sling TV, AT&T TV Now and PlayStation Vue.

TCM is operated by WarnerMedia, a division of AT&T.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).