Steve Paulus, senior VP of news and local programming at Time Warner Cable (TWC), has been making the rounds, from Texas to North Carolina to upstate New York, to share plans about rebranding the cable operator’s popular local news channels. After the kerfuffle that erupted when it was revealed that TWC planned to rebrand its beloved NY1 News channel, Paulus expects a smoother reaction in Austin, Charlotte and other TWC local news markets when the channels sport new names in the fourth quarter.
In stamping “Time Warner Cable” on the news channels, which feature varied local branding, the goal is to establish TWC as a national news network. “Most people are not aware that we are a pretty robust news organization,” says Paulus. “It makes sense to put [all the channels] under one umbrella.”
TWC executives probably did not foresee the degree of vitriol that popped up when word of rebranding NY1 leaked last month. With its “Weather on the 1s,” on-screen time and temperature and dedication to lesser-covered topics such as politics and transit, NY1 is a fixture in New York City television. “Replace a beloved brand with a hated brand,” summed up reader "Stuyman" on NYMag.com.
Perhaps related to the uproar, NY1 will likely remain in the revamped branding—which is not yet finalized—and on the screen. “It shows you how people feel about NY1,” says Paulus.
The YNN channels—short for Your News Now—in New York and Austin, along with News 14 across North Carolina, don’t have the same brand resonance. YNN channels adopted that name in 2010, and Paulus says having a channel position in a cable network’s name is “impractical.”
Mark Washburn, TV critic at the Charlotte Observer, says he has heard from "numerous" readers over the years who suddenly cannot find News 14 on their TVs, and don't realize it’s because they have dropped TWC. “I think it’s probably a good move in that it ties the station back to the provider,” Washburn says. “It’s been a source of confusion for many.”
In addition to enabling the various networks to share content under a common brand, Washburn notes the rebranding reinforces who the parent company is at a time when competition among cable, satellite and telco TV, not to mention over-the-top outfits, is white-hot. Paulus calls the news channels a “primary retention tool” for TWC.
News 14 is the rare cable network that produces news for a broadcast station—WXLV Greensboro. TWC is amenable to taking on more such partnerships, says Paulus, and perhaps launching channels in markets such as San Antonio, Dallas and across Ohio.
The channel makeover will help establish TWC as a national player in news, adds Paulus, who notes that the powerhouse Fox News brand did not exist 20 years ago. “We’re as well-respected as any local news product,” he says. “I don’t think there’s any reason why we can’t do that too.”
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Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.