What’s Below a Subchannel? In Some Cases, Cable


Staff member
Back in 2009 the television industry was in the full throes of opening up a fully-digital broadcasting spectrum, giving birth to a multitude of digital subchannels. At the time, there was concern that broadcasters would have to struggle to justify their dominion over this additional bandwidth.

It turns out to be a needless worry.

Not only are many of the digital subchannels surviving, in many markets, they’re thriving.

Generally speaking, many of these subchannels are airing locally produced original content such as news, weather, and lifestyle information. But in many markets, the digital subchannels are where you’re likely to see programming from smaller networks without affiliates in the DMA — My Network TV, ME-TV, and Ion, for example. And it’s from these networks in particular that the digital subchannel platform is making some serious free-TV noise.

When you regularly review local market program rankers and notice household and even adult demo ratings that are often in 2’s and 3’s for many of the digital subchannels, it becomes something to pay attention to. Audiences are not only finding these new dial positions, but they’re tuning in, often beating Primetime cable programming in the process.

Much of the content airing on these networks are “classic” TV programming such as “M*A*S*H”, “Twilight Zone”, and even “The Rifleman”. But these programs are having success in many markets. For example in Jacksonville, “Star Trek” on Fox digital subchannel EAWS delivered a 1.7 A18-49 Prime rating in November, beating such notable Prime cable programming such as USA’s “Covert Affairs” and FX’s “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”. 1.7 also happened to be the average A18-49 rating for another high-profile cable program you may have heard about: “The Daily Show”.

In Meridian, MS, where ABC affiliate WTOK airs My Network TV programming on its ETOK subchannel, “Without a Trace” delivered a 3.8 Household rating. In fact, were ETOK a cable network, it would be the second-highest rated cable network in the Meridian DMA. So there are some markets where the subchannel content is having an even bigger impact than just in some of the prime programs. In some markets, from sign-on to sign-off, the subchannel as a whole is competing against — and beating — many cable networks.
Read More: What’s Below a Subchannel? In Some Cases, Cable

What's interesting about this is that often times subchannels are relegated to the more expensive cable packages, and satellite often doesn't carry them at all. 100% of TV homes have theoretical access to these channels, but only if they have antennas or expanded cable. So, they are getting high ratings despite being disadvantaged by the pay-TV industry. ;)
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Moderator, , Webmaster of Cache Free TV
Staff member
Let me see, I can watch a classic episode of "Star Trek", "All in the Family", or "MASH". Or I can watch the latest crapisode of "Jersey Shore". Tough choice.

Maybe I'll tune in to MTV and listen to some tunes instead. Oh! That's right - "Music TV" is now the "Jersey Shore" network. They don't play any music anymore. Hey, what's this channel on my antenna at 4.2- "The Cool TV". Music Videos 24/7? What a concept! Wow, look what I found on 30.2 - "TCN", "The Country Network!" another channel that plays music videos 24/7!

I no longer want my MTV. And look at TLC, "The Learning Channel"? Seriously? Look at their lineup: TV Shows : TLC What are we "learning" on TLC? I don't know, but it's not good. You know what channel I found that really is "The Learning Channel"? It's called PBS. It's free, and it's awesome.


, Blogger: Orry's Orations
I had to laugh at the TLC comment because I have often wondered about that myself. It is a channel that has clearly lost its focus. I think it really went south with the Gosselin junk.

Jedi Master

Great Post. MeTV is my favorite channel and its free OTA. MTV is Trash TV. So are most channels on cable these days. Which is why I canceled my subscription back in 2008.