A new local TV station that will launch a morning show from Aspen Mountain this month inadvertently picked a channel and a branding strategy similar to the valley’s community access station.
Comcast cable subscribers will see Aspen 82 on Channel 82 from Aspen to El Jebel when the station launches programming on Dec. 21. But from Carbondale to Rifle, GrassRoots TV has been seen on Channel 82 since 2010, and will continue to be.
Aspen 82 co-founder David Cook said he was not aware that GrassRoots had assumed the Channel 82 identity downvalley, and that it had launched a marketing effort around the concept of bringing the valley together, much like state Highway 82 that runs from Aspen to Glenwood.
Both stations use logos that incorporate the Highway 82 sign.
“I think it’s unfortunate in that it will create confusion in the marketplace,” said GrassRoots TV executive director John Masters, although he said the upvalley/downvalley overlap is “not really a problem.”
GrassRoots TV, which started in Aspen 40 years ago and was the nation’s first public access station, is seen upvalley on Channel 12, and has been since its founding.
The valley’s cable system is split into two parts, or “headends” — one centered in Glenwood Springs that serves the downvalley and Colorado River Valley areas, and one centered in Aspen that reaches to the midvalley.
Channel 82 was unsubscribed for the Aspen headend, and Aspen 82 secured the rights to broadcast on that channel for upvalley cable customers in late November. The channel also engineered a coup by acquiring the rights to broadcast a live morning show from Aspen Mountain that the Aspen Skiing Co. had previously assigned to Plum TV. The morning show will kick off on Dec. 22.
For GrassRoots, while becoming a valleywide network was part of the plan when it launched in 1972, that vision didn’t become a reality until 2010. The change occurred thanks to technological innovations such as a valleywide fiber optic network installed around 2003 and the transition to digital television channels, Masters said. So two years ago, the community access network opened a studio in Carbondale, and with the encouragement of Carbondale and Glenwood Springs city governments, began broadcasting in those areas on Channel 82. Previously, GrassRoots TV could not be seen downvalley. The effort coincided with a branding and fundraising campaign complete with a logo based on the Highway 82 road sign.
GrassRoots considered switching its upvalley station to Channel 82 when it launched on that channel downvalley, but decided against it because people in Aspen were used to seeing GrassRoots on Channel 12, he said.
Cook met on Friday with Masters and GrassRoots TV board president Alan Feldman, after the potential branding overlap was brought to his attention.
“We definitely want to reduce consumer confusion as much as possible, and to make it as clear as we can for the viewer,” Cook said.
Cook added that he wants to be a good partner with the community access station.
“We are big fans of what they do,” he said.
Masters noted that GrassRoots has a different mission than a commercial TV station such as Aspen 82.
“The important thing to us is that members of the community can access their community channel,” Masters said. “We just want people to connect with each other.”
At GrassRoots, the programming is driven by the community, and is “bottom up” as opposed to “top down,” Masters said.
“We help people create TV,” he said. “That is a different, opposite perspective of really any other media. ... It’s still an experiment, still radical after 40 years.”