CBS, Weigel Ready ‘Decades’ Digi-Net

CBS Television Station Group and The Weigel Group believe they have found the answer for television viewers who can’t get enough of I Love Lucy and Star Trek reruns, with the planned launch of the new Decades digital network, a channel dedicated to programming from the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.

Decades will be available over the air via CBS owned and operated station’s digital sub-channels – for example, in New York, the CBS affiliate will continue to be available digitally on channel 2.1, while the oldies channel will be available on channel 2.2. Decades also will be available on cable, satellite and telco TV systems.

The channel will offer more than 100 iconic series from the 1950s, 1960, 1970s and 1980s from the CBS library, including Happy Days, Cheers and the aforementioned I Love Lucy and Star Trek. In addition, the channel will air theatrical and made-for-TV movies and historical and cultural broadcasts from the archives of CBS News and Entertainment Tonight.

Other broadcasters have utilized their digital sub-channels to broadcast classic TV shows – in 2011, Tribune Broadcasting unleashed Antenna TV in markets where it owns stations – in New York, it uses Tribune’s WPIX’s digital channel 11.2 -- to offer viewers a steady stream of Mr. Ed, McHale’s Navy and Barney Miller reruns. And RetroTV, owned by Chattanooga, Tenn.-based Luken Communications, has offered classis programming like I Love Lucy, Lassie and Doctor Who on digital broadcast channels since 2005.

The CBS venture seems a bit more ambitious in that it seems to be opening up more of its library, including movies and news programs. For example, one feature of the network will be the Decades Retrospectical, a daily one-hour program that will be produced around the news events and cultural touchstones of a specific day, week or other time frame or theme. Those events can be as diverse as the Happy Days “jump the shark” episode, the Apollo moon landing and The Beatles first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show.

“Decades is the most ambitious and creative subchannel programming service that has ever been created,” said CBS Television Stations president Peter Dunn in a statement. “We are thrilled to partner with Weigel Broadcasting, the leaders in this space, to make smart use of our stations’ spectrums and our companies’ considerable programming assets. This service will be a tremendous new business for CBS and all of the other stations across the country that participate, regardless of their primary network affiliation.”

Decades is expected to debut during the second quarter of 2015, with CBS’s 16 owned and operated stations serving at the launch group, such as New York City (WCBS), Los Angeles (KCBS), Chicago (WBBM), Philadelphia (KYW), Dallas (KTVT), San Francisco (KPIX), Boston (WBZ), Detroit (WWJ), Minneapolis-St. Paul (WCCO and its satellite stations KCCO and KCCW), Miami (WFOR), Denver (KCNC), Sacramento (KOVR), Pittsburgh (KDKA) and Baltimore (WJZ).

Weigel, which operates MeTV,a similar classic TV network, will be responsible for securing affiliation agreements for Decades with other stations across the country.

“Decades takes the digital broadcast network platform to a new level,” Weigel president Norman Shapiro said in a statement. “Viewers will ‘Relive, Remember & Relate’ to the events that touched their lives and generations past. The events, themes and programming possibilities are endless. We are truly honored to be chosen as the company to develop the CBS Television Stations’ diginet product, and look forward to the launch of Decades next year."