Mountain television channel goes dark after 29 years
by Jack Deming
Sep 20, 2012 | 3108 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
WEST DOVER-If a subscriber to local cable outlet Duncan Cable switches to channel 41, they might notice Mount Snow Television is missing. That’s because at the end of July, Outside Television, the nationally syndicated network that has operated the channel since 1999, decided to eliminate programming and production for its Mount Snow channel.

What caused the decision was clear-cut dollars and cents. The station’s advertising revenue could no longer match operating fees, like the transport fee for Mount Snow’s 14-mile direct fiber link to Duncan Cable.

Last summer, Tropical Storm Irene had a massive impact on the local economy, destroying some businesses, and forcing others to rebuild. This, along with a down-turned economy, took its toll on advertising revenue for Mount Snow TV, as an area filled with small businesses found it harder to afford the costs of advertising. As former Mount Snow station manager and television producer Therese Lounsbury explains, “Advertising dollars ultimately did the channel in, and advertising dollars drove the station’s revenue. Between the down economy and flooded-out businesses that advertised on the channel, as well as a soft winter, we were just trying to coast along.”

Lounsbury also said you couldn’t blame the network, “Outside Television is national. For them to throw money at a small station that at this point isn’t holding their own in such a small subscriber base just makes no sense.”

Mount Snow Television was created in 1983 and until its recent demise, provided both national and local programming. This included visitor guides that explained where to eat and shop, and things to do in the area, as well as a variety of sports-based programming through the network, focusing on outdoor activities in the area such as skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking, and golfing.

Mount Snow TV officially became a part of Outside Television in 1999, when the network took over operations and created Mount Snow TV/Outside TV Channel 41.

Lounsbury, who worked at the station for 27 years and performed every task from directing and producing, to editing and script writing, explains the station’s value. “It was turning visitors into locals, and provided merchandising for the businesses here, placing them in front of the audience we captured. It was meant for winter skiers and riders as well as local customers. It was an unmatched resource for that kind of media to be in a small area like this.”

Outside Television was launched in 2010 when Resort Sports Network took up partnership with Outside magazine. The newly-named sports network provides coverage in 110 sports markets and according to the network’s website, reaches 61 million viewers annually. Until August of this year, Mount Snow represented one of those sports markets.

The future of Duncan Cable’s channel 41 is up in the air. According to Lounsbury, Mount Snow had the option of restarting Mount Snow TV as an independent channel, but passed on the idea, as advertising revenue is what ultimately drives a station’s success. Even the station equipment was disbanded, with Outside Television and Mount Snow divvying up the equipment.

Duncan Cable owner Cliff Duncan has expressed interest in beginning a new format of local programming on channel 41, including bringing back a focus on local businesses. “We’re looking seriously at bringing the station back with much more local content.” said Duncan. “We used to have a show called ‘Visitors Guide to Southern Vermont’ that featured local businesses in 15-minute segments, and provided a dynamic opportunity to convey what they do, and how they do it.”

Duncan is also toying with the idea of a real estate show, and an open-forum, localized current events show.

While there is not yet a timeline for programming to return to channel 41, Duncan said that Mount Snow Television lost a lot of local flair when it became nationally syndicated, and he would like to put the focus back on the Deerfield Valley.

“Anything we can do to feature businesses some way on cable, with old trickle-down economics, it eventually comes back to pay a dividend somewhere down the road. It’s more about helping other businesses in a way they otherwise couldn’t get exposure. There is still a romantic thing about seeing someone you know on television.”
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