The TV landscape has changed dramatically for Steamboat Springs customers of Comcast cable.
Those who awoke this morning to tune into the Weather Channel and track the next storm system moving in from the Pacific were in for a surprise. The Weather Channel is no longer on channel 17 -- it has moved to channel 42, right next to CNN on channel 43, which moved from channel 30.
The changes signal the completion of cable system upgrades in Steamboat. Comcast subscribers have access to many more channels here, albeit at a price.
Some Comcast customers in Steamboat will notice that channels they had grown accustomed to having have now moved into more expensive packages. The STARZ movie channel, for example, has moved out of the "expanded" basic lineup into the "digital premium" package. Customers will need to upgrade to a package ranging from $65 to $89 monthly to continue watching STARZ. Alternatively, they could choose to pay an additional $13 a month over and above their package price to add STARZ on an a la carte basis.
While STARZ has disappeared from expanded basic, music channel VH1, never before available in Steamboat, is included.
Comcast spokeswoman Tiffany Payne said Wednesday the benefit of the upgrades is that customers in Steamboat have the option of signing up for many more channels than ever before.
"Comcast is spending about $200 million upgrading its systems in Colorado," Payne said. "The purpose of the upgrade is to give customers more of what they want."
Subscribers who already have a digital box and who are receiving digital music channels suddenly will find that they are receiving 43 additional music channels, including eight Latin music channels.
Comcast sent subscribers a letter advising them that beginning with their first bill after today, their digital cable package price typically will increase by $6. A new channel lineup was enclosed.
"We recently changed our digital cable packages," the letter stated. "Based on the current level of service and package you subscribe to, you may not receive the same channels and rates listed on the programming guide."
Payne said the cost of expanded basic would go from $34.70 to $42.99.
Payne advised most subscribers to reassess the channels included in their revised package and evaluate how many channels they want access to. The programming guide mailed to customers last week explains the options. Subscribers with questions are encouraged to call 888-824-8451.
The advantage of the new lineup, Payne said, is that customers will have the opportunity to pay for channels that weren't previously available. TV viewers willing to part with $89 a month will have access to all premium services and their multiplexes.
For example, HBO lovers will be able to receive HBO Family East and HBO Family West. HBO Latin and Black STARZ are among the 33 premium channels.
Subscribers have the option of picking up premium channels such as HBO and Showtime individually at $13.99 and $12.99 respectively.
The availability of pay-per-view services also has expanded, Payne said. Previously, pay-per-view movie channels didn't afford consumers many options. With 21 pay-per-view channels under the expanded lineup, viewers have a better chance of finding a movie they want to see at a convenient time. Comcast will offer five sports pay-per-view channels in Steamboat.
With the creation of the new channel lineup, Comcast has reorganized some classifications of channels so they are closer to one another on the dial. For example, ESPN, ESPN2 and Fox Sports Rocky Mountain are on channels 25, 26 and 27.
News channels also have been grouped on channels 42 through 47.
Payne suggested that subscribers use their remotes to search for programming by time and category, while growing accustomed to the shuffled lineup.
Subscribers who have a digital box will be able to order a new programming package over the telephone without the need for a service call. Customers who choose to upgrade and do not have a box will have to schedule a visit by a technician.
Summit County, which is under the same regional management as Steamboat, underwent the lineup change last week, Payne said. Customer service changes typically were made within 24 hours. Customers here should be able to get their service changed within 24 to 48 hours, she said.