Cheyenne’s Channel 5 inks cable deal

CHEYENNE, Wyo. – A bid by KGWN, Cheyenne’s CBS television affiliate, to become Northern Colorado’s prime source of local news, sports and weather coverage got a huge boost when US Cable agreed to add Channel 5 to its regional lineup.

The Johnstown-based Colorado headquarters for US Cable will provide Channel 5’s programming to about 5,000 subscribers in Larimer County, including a franchise in Wellington and areas surrounding Fort Collins and Loveland, and in the Weld County communities of Johnstown, Milliken, Eaton, Ault and Pierce.

One of the parties to the deal said it would lead, inevitably, to a decision by Comcast Corp. to include Channel 5 in listings covering most of Northern Colorado cable subscribers.

The system is also vying with cable giant Comcast for an exclusive franchise with fast-growing Timnath, where as many as 5,000 homes could be built in the next eight years.

“This gives us a toehold,´ said Louis Wall, president of Augusta, Ga.-based Sagamore Hill Broadcasting LLC, Channel 5’s corporate parent. “It gives us a chance to show some local folks what we can do. But whatever we do today, and within the next three months will be a lot less than what we want to be doing the following fall, or the year after that.”

Channel 5 has for years been trying to crack the Comcast cable lineup for Greeley, Fort Collins, Loveland and Windsor, where about 80 percent of the region’s cable subscribers reside. Comcast is a minority partner in US Cable, but the smaller system acts independently, said US Cable Colorado manager Dave Kavanagh.

KGWN this fall will open a bureau in downtown Fort Collins, staffed by full-time sales and news employees, and plans expanded news, sports and weather coverage for the region.

Joan Turner, Channel 5’s vice president and general manager, said she hoped to have the bureau up and running when the US Cable service officially launches Nov. 1.

‘Ready to go’

“It’s a baby step, but it’s a step, and it’s positive and real,” Turner said of the cable agreement signed two weeks ago. “We’re in the process of interviewing for a full-time news reporter. We want to open the office and have that person in place and have it all ready to go at that time.”

For two months, Channel 5’s cable listing will be in the upper reaches of US Cable’s lineup. (See box.) But in January, the cable company will designate channel 5 as KGWN’s home, just as Denver stations – channels 2, 4, 7 and 9 – match their broadcast and cable signals.

“This is a winner for the entire region,” Kavanagh said. “I really believe in what Louis and Joan are doing. They’re gambling their whole station on Northern Colorado, and I think it’s a good gamble.”

US Cable has ambitious plans to serve fast-growing communities in the region, and also will gamble millions over the next few years to extend its subscriber network.

“We’re building a fiber-optic network that will pass 50,000 homes within 10 years,” Kavanagh said. “That’s going to include cable, high-speed Internet and voice. We’re a high-tech company, and we’re growing very fast.”

One leg of the high-speed fiber network will extend to Eaton and through Severance, which 2004 census numbers designated Colorado’s fastest-growing town. Kavanagh said US Cable would soon try to negotiate a franchise agreement with the town.

Hockey deal?

Channel 5 has also been negotiating with the Colorado Eagles minor league hockey franchise to televise its games, and Turner said at least one late-season game was in the plans for early 2006.

Eagles television coverage had been provided by the Denver-based Altitude Network, with home-game telecasts during the 2004-05 season when a lockout by National Hockey League owners shut down big-league play.

But Altitude’s contract to cover Colorado Avalanche games when NHL play resumes this season opens the door for Channel 5 and the Eagles, Turner said. Eagles owner Ralph Backstrom told the Business Report in July that he would welcome a TV agreement with KGWN, especially if the station was able to secure a cable agreement.

Sagamore Hill and Channel 5 have outlined a strategy for making Northern Colorado its prime focus, both for news, sports and weather coverage and as a source for advertising revenue.

“We’re obviously pleased to have US Cable step up there and help us out with what we’re trying to do,” Wall said. They’ve got ambitions to grow, as well. It’s hard for us not to be excited and enthused about what’s going on in Northern Colorado. Our next challenge will be to have the resources to do the things we want to do.”

CHEYENNE, Wyo. – A bid by KGWN, Cheyenne’s CBS television affiliate, to become Northern Colorado’s prime source of local news, sports and weather coverage got a huge boost when US Cable agreed to add Channel 5 to its regional lineup.

The Johnstown-based Colorado headquarters for US Cable will provide Channel 5’s programming to about 5,000 subscribers in Larimer County, including a franchise in Wellington and areas surrounding Fort Collins and Loveland, and in the Weld County communities of Johnstown, Milliken, Eaton, Ault and Pierce.

One of the parties to the deal said it would lead, inevitably, to a decision by Comcast Corp. to include Channel 5 in listings covering most of Northern Colorado cable subscribers.

The system is also vying with cable giant Comcast for an exclusive franchise with fast-growing Timnath, where as many as 5,000 homes could be built in the next eight years.

“This gives us a toehold,´ said Louis Wall, president of Augusta, Ga.-based Sagamore Hill Broadcasting LLC, Channel 5’s corporate parent. “It gives us a chance to show some local folks what we can do. But whatever we do today, and within the next three months will be a lot less than what we want to be doing the following fall, or the year after that.”

Channel 5 has for years been trying to crack the Comcast cable lineup for Greeley, Fort Collins, Loveland and Windsor, where about 80 percent of the region’s cable subscribers reside. Comcast is a minority partner in US Cable, but the smaller system acts independently, said…