Originally created 08/19/00

New channel won't raise bills



Comcast Corp. said Friday that carrying Turner South will not result in a rate increase for Augusta cable viewers.

On Thursday, the city's largest cable TV provider announced it had struck a deal with Turner Broadcasting System to broadcast the "regional entertainment channel" that also covers a quarter of Atlanta Braves games.

Terms of the deal, including the contract's length and price, were not disclosed.

Comcast's Augusta spokesman, Bill Botham, said the company's decision to carry the station, which is rumored to be pricey, will not translate to higher rates.

"That's not to say there will never be another rate increase," Mr. Botham said. "But this (Turner South) will not directly lead to one."

The 24-hour network, created by Turner Broadcasting founder and Time Warner Chairman Ted Turner, will be broadcast on Comcast Channel 71. The network features some original programs but mostly broadcasts reruns and classic movies, programming similar to Mr. Turner's other regional entertainment networks, TBS and TNT.

Turner South had been available in Augusta only to satellite customers and Knology subscribers.

In addition to Augusta, Comcast on Friday started carrying Turner South in Savannah; Chamblee, Ga.; and Knoxville and Chattanooga, Tenn.

Philadelphia-based Comcast, which serves more than 93,000 households in the Augusta area, had been negotiating with Turner Broadcasting for several months as complaints mounted from Braves fans upset over not being able to see certain games.

"I'm glad to see they finally put it on. I can only think that the people who complained forced them into it," Hephzibah resident and Braves fan Barry Doick said Friday afternoon. "I've got it on my TV right now."

The Turner South issue generated the most complaints for the Augusta cable provider in recent memory. The last comparable outpouring of customer complaints came more than 10 years ago when the company, then operating as Jones Intercable, temporarily yanked the USA Network from its lineup.

Mr. Botham said Comcast was negotiating for Turner Broadcasting's best possible price, adding that initial offering prices would have translated to as much as a $1 per month rate increase.

"We're happy to get the deal that we got," he said. "It was worth fighting for."

Including tonight's Braves game, Comcast customers will be able to catch nine on Turner South this season. The remaining games will be broadcast on TBS, ESPN and Fox Sports South, all of which are carried by Comcast.

Reach Damon Cline at (706) 823-3486.