Comcast Changes Cost ESPN Classic

ESPN Classic has suffered another distribution hit: Comcast Corp. has moved the service to digital in the Washington, D.C., market to make room for other networks, including its own Outdoor Life Network, officials said.

As a result of the changes earlier this year, ESPN Classic has lost about 200,000 Comcast subscribers in Arlington, Va., and Montgomery County, Md., according to an ESPN spokeswoman.

The loss of those homes, though not huge, comes alongside a major blow weathered by ESPN Classic at the start of the year. EchoStar Communications Corp. dropped ESPN Classic from its Dish Network lineup, a move that cost the sports-nostalgia network 5.1 million subscribers.

Classic's shift to digital and a number of other changes were the result of Comcast's attempt to standardize the channel lineups of its Washington-area systems, according to an MSO spokeswoman.

In recently upgraded Arlington, Outdoor Life, Speed Channel, Food Network and Cartoon Network were added to analog basic, while ESPN Classic and Toon Disney moved to digital, the spokeswoman said.

Comcast took controlling interest in OLN last year.

In Montgomery County, ESPN Classic and HBO Family were moved to digital, while Discovery Health Channel, OLN and Style were added to expanded basic. Game Show Network was moved from part-time to full-time status on analog.

Comcast had also launched ESPN Classic on a digital tier in Arlington, Va., the MSO spokeswoman said.

With respect to Comcast's shifting ESPN Classic to digital in Arlington, the ESPN spokeswoman said: "They were part of a contractual commitment, and we knew about it for some time. "ESPN Classic now has about 40 million subscribers.