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RCN to Switch its Big Apple Analog Subs to DTV for Free

RCN (opens in new tab), a cable-broadband-telephony firm serving several major markets including New York City (Nielsen DMA no. 1), is giving 15,000 of its 90,000 subs a “free upgrade” from basic analog to digital, although not all analog viewers may consider it an improvement over what they have now.

Starting in October, subs currently getting the basic cable package will be fitted with new set-top boxes for RCN’s basic digital cable package—with about a dozen extra channels thrown in for good measure.

RCN’s generosity has a business purpose: It wants its analog spectrum back in order to provide more HD and SD digital outlets to compete better, and by switching all its subs to the far more spectrum-efficient digital side, it will free up valuable spectrum in the process. The cabler’s basic analog tier now consists of 97 channels; its basic digital tier has 108, as well as 45 music venues.

Still, those “extra” digital channels to be available to former analog subs at no extra charge include a virtual Who’s Who of some of the most obscure offerings available anywhere, including: The Word, Reelz, American Life, Pentagon Channel, Jewelry TV, and four community access channels serving Brooklyn. (Hey, you lookin’ at me?)

At the same time, RCN plans to remove the far less obscure National Geographic and Bloomberg channels from its basic digital line-up. The cabler has already switched its analog subs to digital in Chicago (Nielsen DMA no. 3) and Boston (Nielsen DMA no. 7).