Comcast to Offer 'Family-Friendly' Cable Package

No. 1 U.S. cable operator Comcast Corp. (CMCSA) Thursday said it would offer a package of "family-friendly" channels amid mounting pressure from regulators to help parents weed out racy shows.

The package will include 35 to 40 channels, most of them from the basic cable tier of national and local broadcast channels. Other channels include Disney and Nickelodeon, National Geographic, the Food Network, CNN Headline News and the Weather Channel.

Comcast's "Family" tier will be available in early 2006 at an average monthly fee of $31.20, which includes the basic cable channels, the "family" channels and cost of the cable box.

Comcast executives said earlier this month they were considering such a move amid indecency concerns raised by lawmakers and media regulators.

The cable industry fears a wider push for "a la carte pricing," allowing consumers to choose individual channels, would threaten its business model in which the costs of carrying more expensive programming is offset by smaller channels also paid for by consumers.

But the Federal Communications Commission has pushed operators to give parents more tools to protect children from potentially objectionable material. The industry had argued that regulating its content would violate free speech rights.

Last week, No. 2 operator Time Warner Cable was the first to unveil a "family-oriented" package of television channels at about $33 per month. The company is owned by Time Warner Inc. (TWX).

Another four cable operators are expected to unveil similar packages in the near term, according to industry officials.

Comcast said its Family Tier features primarily G-rated programming, has limited live entertainment and includes Spanish-language and religious broadcasts.

Comcast shares rose 13 cents to $26.42.