This is a fast-growing trend — and a worrisome one for many cable channels at risk of losing viewers, monthly payments from pay TV distributors, and advertising. But cable and satellite companies including Comcast and Time Warner Cable say they have to do something to keep cash-strapped customers from cutting the cord.  Cox says that soon all of its markets will offer its TV Economy service tier for about $35 a month, far less than the conventional TV Essential expanded basic package that runs as much as $60. Although pricing and options will vary slightly by market, the discounted service typically will include a mix of standard definition and HD versions of local broadcasters, shopping channels, C-SPAN, and superstation WGN in addition to a lineup with AMC, Animal Planet, BET, Cartoon Network, CNN, Comedy Central, Discovery, Disney Channel, E!, Food, Fox News, FX, Galavision, History Channel, Lifetime, MSNBC, NatGeo, Nickelodeon, TBS, TV Guide, TruTV, The Weather Channel, TV Land, and USA. In order to keep costs down, it won’t have ABC Family, A&E, Bravo, CNBC, ESPN, ESPN2, HGTV, HLN, MTV, regional sports, SyFy, Speed, Spike, TNT, TLC, The Travel Channel, and VH1. Operators pay ESPN about $4.69 per subscriber each month, while TNT costs $1.16, and Disney Channel goes for  94 cents, according to SNL Kagan. Earlier this month Disney CFO Jay Rasulo told analysts that he isn’t concerned that lots of subscribers will accept the sports-less pay TV tiers. “Fans love ESPN,” he said. And since the channel’s fans are more likely than other viewers to subscribe to cable’s broadband and phone services, “I can’t imagine that any (pay TV providers) will want to move their business models to skinnied down packages.”

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