Everyone has a theory about why radio in New York has historically stunk – “too much pride in Billy Joel,” says one rock critic – but no one could ever have expected a cable company to come up with a solution.
Especially not a cable company like Time Warner, which has long been accused of keeping New York City in the television stone age. But with its new CFT2200 receiver, Time Warner is offering not just fourteen additional cable networks, including the long-awaited Animal Planet, but 31 channels of music. No videos and no Tabitha Soren, just tunes playing along to a white-on-blue text screen. It’s called Music Choice, and the selections range from Metal to Lite Jazz to Contemporary Christian. “A typical classic-rock station rotates 300 songs – our classic-rock channel has more than 3,000,” brags Lou Simon, Music Choice senior vice-president. “This is a formidable medium for exposing music not usually on radio.”
It’s also a formidable medium for boosting album sales – including Time Warner’s – which are slumping industry-wide. Cable customers can automatically order the CD of a band they hear. For now, the service is available only to the 6,000-odd Manhattan customers who’ve had their streets rewired with fiber-optic cable, but Time Warner expects to be adding 200,000 households this year. Don’t worry, though: You’ll never have to do without Billy Joel. His 1978 hit “My Life” is in rotation on four Music Choice channels.