George Clooney may be a superstar, but the only network that jumped at the opportunity to carry a documentary on his trip to Darfur late last year was American Life TV, a small D.C.-based golden-oldies channel owned by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church.
You probably couldn’t find two individuals on more opposite ends of the ideological spectrum than the left-of-center Clooney and the ultra-conservative Rev. Moon. …
ALTV’s primetime lineup consists mostly of reruns of series like “L.A. Law,” “Hill Street Blues,” “St. Elsewhere” and its longest-running repeat, the black-and-white World War II drama “Combat.”
But despite these recognizable series, and a bargain rate (a monthly fee of only between a nickel and a dime for each subscriber), cable operators and satellite distributors are not elbowing one another to buy ALTV.
Comcast Corp., the largest cable operator, with 24 million subs, not only doesn’t carry ALTV on its original systems but has started to drop it from the Adelphia systems it bought in a co-purchase arrangement with Time Warner Cable.
Nicholas Chaiai, president of Crown Communications, the church’s division that runs ALTV, is convinced Moon’s ownership has played a role in Comcast’s decision. “Comcast is not friendly to ALTV,” Chaiai says.
Comcast says its verdict rests purely on the merits of the network. But the bottom line for ALTV is that, since it opened for business back in February 1985 under the name Nostalgia TV, it has managed to sign cable operators reaching only a paltry 10 million subs. (By contrast, 33 ad-supported cable networks each chalk up more than 90 million homes.)