Current Online

Syracuse station starts channel using the profusion of how-to programs

Originally published in Current, Oct. 8, 2001
By Steve Behrens

In Syracuse, WCNY is not waiting for DTV to begin multicasting. Last month it launched a new specialized genre channel for distribution through local cable systems: WCNY2, Your How-to Channel.

How-to is not only one of the most popular program types on public TV but also one of the most readily available, station leaders reasoned, according to spokesman Dave Valesky.

And the rights to distribute on a noncommercial cable channel were available at no additional cost through public TV's exchange and syndication services to which WCNY was already paying membership fees, says Dale Wagner, program manager.

The basic building block for WCNY come from PBS Plus, American Public Television, National Educational Telecommunications Association and Continental Program Marketing. They're familiar half-hour how-to shows like Martha's Sewing Room, Yan Can Cook, Moneywise and Router Workshop that are available in such profusion that many can't fit them into their traditional weekend slots.

Producers competing for airtime have noticeably improved how-to programs in recent years, Wagner observes.

To help viewing, promotion and underwriting sales, the half-hour shows are grouped into two-hour blocks on various hobbies and self-improvement subjects. There are:

  • four two-hour blocks a week on personal finance, four on travel, four on cooking and four on miscellaneous hobbies;
  • three blocks a week on home improvement and three on sewing/quilting;
  • two blocks a week on painting and two on health; and
  • one block a week on pet care and one on gardening.

And those blocks are assembled into eight-hour schedules that debut each day at 6 a.m. and repeat at 2 p.m.

The how-to schedule ends at 10 p.m., in time for a repeat of the station's daily midday talk/call-in show, Hour CNY, followed by the noncommercial national channel Classic Arts Showcase, which holds the channel until the next morning.

So far the channel is carried only on Time Warner systems in WCNY's two core counties serving Syracuse and Oswego, but the station hopes other cable systems will pick it up by fiber-optic connections throughout the Central New York region. The channel is largely unduplicated by WCNY's broadcast channel--only five series appear on both schedules, Valesky says.

WCNY has had access to the channel parttime since 1991 and fulltime since 1996, but wanted to offer a more marketable, specialized service, Valesky says. Previously the channel was dominated by the PBS You adult education schedule, with a smattering of other program types. At a retreat this spring, the only alternative discussed was children's programming, and Wagner says the executives agreed that WCNY would be duplicating the 9.5 hours of kidvid that it airs each day on its main channel.

The plan was adopted early in the tenure of new WCNY President Michael Fields, who developed and supervised the MetroArts Thirteen cable channel for WNET before moving to Syracuse in April.

To Current's home page
Later article: Specialized channels are an option for public TV's future DTV multicasting channels.
Outside link: Schedule for WCNY2.

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