Why Do Cable Companies Periodically Change Which Channels Are Where?

Time Warner in Manhattan recently did this (again). For example, Cinemax used to be 33, right next to HBO (32). Now Cinemax is 69. There were a few other moves, but I forget what they were at the moment.

So why do they do this? Sure we eventually get used to it, but for a couple of weeks it’s a serious inconvenience (as far as one can be inconvenienced by such things, anyway). I’ve got to unlearn certain deeply ingrained channel surfing habits whenever they change channels around, and it’s just generally a drag. So why?

I can’t vouch for your specific cable system, but for the most part if that happens then it’s due to the channel actually switching to a different satellite. For reasons unkown to me, the content providers (not the cable company)who actually fire everything up to the satellites sometimes move channels around and consequently the actually tuned channel changes for the consumer. I think it has to do with just shuffling things around because of bandwidth issues.

That’s a basic explanation. Only valid for a digital cable system though.

When AT & T bought out TCI locally, they swapped channels around to match other nearby markets.

Our local Time-Warner cable system regrouped some of the channels into similarly-themed blocks (examples from regular cable):

Family programming: Nickelodeon, Disney Channel, Cartoon Network, Fox Family Channel (not sure of the new name), TVLAnd - currently takes up the mid-30s [34, 35, 36, 37, 38]

Arts & Sciences: Discovery, A&E, Animal Planet, TLC, History Channel - currently takes up the low-40s.

Sports: ESPN, ESPN2, Sunshine Network, Racing Channel and a couple other sport-themed channels - currently takes up the upper-20s. Hasn’t moved the Golf Channel there yet - it’s still in with the ‘specialty channels’ - Food Network, HGTV, et al.

Spanish: Telemundo, Home Shopping Network - Spanish edition, and three other Spanish language networks - currently takes up the low-60s.

Well at least that makes sense, screech. In Manhattan, everything is mixed together. Kids channels are 6, 14, 22, and 49. Movie channels are now 32, 48, 66, and 69. For as long as I can remember, HBO and Cinemax have always been right next to each other (going all the way back to the days when they were 20 and 21, respectively) . . . but not anymore. It’s at least little annoying.

Locally the channel numbers change when the contract allows them to change. Each city in the Twin Cities metro area had their own contract with a cable provider (there used to be 4 or 5) but as they each got bought out by Time-Warner and AT&T they were obligated to keep the channels where the contract identified them. When the contract expires the company can then standardize them with their main system in the area. Now as the cable companies are going digital they are playing musical chairs with the numbers again.

They also had to make changes to avoid interference from broadcast channels for areas near transmission towers.

They really need to make a TV that would let you assign stations to your own custom channels. It wouldn’t be that hard. You’d basically just be telling the TV “when I say 37, I really mean 62,” etc.