URBANA – Comcast is making five channel changes Nov. 11, and some subscribers will have to make changes to see those channels.
– C-SPAN2, now seen on Channel 16, will be carried only on Channel 446. It will continue to be part of Comcast's "basic" level of service, but basic subscribers will need a digital set-top box or compatible equipment to see it.
– G4, now on Channel 68, will appear only on Channel 143. It will become part of Comcast's "digital starter" tier.
– MTV2, now on Channel 64, will appear only on Channel 808 and be part of the "digital classic" tier.
– Trinity Broadcasting, now on Channel 61, will appear only on Channel 277 and be part of the "digital classic" tier.
– Style, a fashion, beauty and shopping network now seen on Channels 72 and 136, will be on Channels 70 and 136. It will remain on the "expanded basic" tier.
Channels 16, 61, 64 and 68 will go blank, with no cable channels occupying those positions, said Rich Ruggiero, Comcast's regional vice president of communications.
"We want to use capacity in the network more efficiently," Ruggiero said, adding that each analog channel can take as much capacity as 10 to 12 digital cable channels or as many as three high-definition channels.
Ruggiero said Comcast is repositioning C-SPAN2, G4, MTV2 and Trinity Broadcasting from analog to digital tiers to meet customer demand for more high-definition and on-demand programming.
"We have already added more than 20 HD (high-definition) channels and are on track to deliver 1,000 HD choices to central Illinois viewers in 2009," said Greg Capranica, Comcast's central Illinois area vice president.
Most Comcast customers in Illinois already subscribe to digital cable and don't have to take additional steps to get the four channels, Ruggiero said.
But basic cable customers who want to continue seeing C-SPAN2 – which carries U.S. Senate coverage and Book TV on weekends – would have to pay Comcast an additional $1.13 a month to get a digital set-top box.
Basic customers now pay $12.50 a month, so a set-top box would boost their bill to $13.63 a month.
Expanded basic, or "standard," customers pay $52.75 a month for about 69 channels. If they want to continue seeing G4 – a station that focuses on video games and Web culture – they would have to pay an additional $1.99 a month, or a total of $54.74, to become "digital starter" customers.
Comcast's "digital starter" package includes the Movieplex cable network, access to video on-demand programming and an interactive programming guide, Ruggiero said.
"Standard" customers who want to continue seeing MTV2, a music video channel, and Trinity Broadcasting, a religious programming channel, would have to pay an additional $14.99 a month – or a total of $67.74 a month – to become "digital classic" customers.
The "digital classic" package includes more than 40 additional channels, including movie channels, sports programming and children's programming, Ruggiero said.
Comcast has yet another tier of service – "digital preferred" – that adds another 15 to 20 channels, he added.
Some of the changes are motivated by Comcast's desire to have uniform lineups across its markets.
"We are working to make channel lineups more consistent across central Illinois," Ruggiero said.
No more changes are planned for the immediate future, he said.
"Over time, you will probably see additional cable networks moving from analog to digital," he said. "It's fair to say there will be more of that."