how are cable channel numbers determined?

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I was thinking about this when flipping threw the guide. some numbers are skipped all together. Also, it seems every area and cable company has different numbers for their channels. even some local stations are not on the “proper” cosponsoring number. I was wondering if anyone in the cable industry has any insight into how numbers are put together?

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4 Answers

Anonymous 0 Comments

For over-the-air TV, the channel number is literally mapped to a frequency that the channel is carried on, so you have to get a license for the frequency and obviously not be near another transmitter of the same frequency. In the digital era, some channels are named like “12.1” and “12.2” indicating that on channel frequency 12 there were 2 different channels found.

For cable TV it’s all up to the provider to make the decision, especially in the digital TV era where the channel number usually doesn’t mean anything about the frequency. Channels may be grouped by purpose (eg: common vs premium channels, genre/category, or anything else), characteristics (eg: foreign language or alternative audio channel) or just that the next channel gets the next available number. Consider that some of them have been around a long time, and channels do come and go. Without occasionally re-numbering channels it can get itself messy over time, and customers are not likely to appreciate having channel numbers changed just for no real reason. Grandma knows Jeopardy is on at 7:00 on channel 8, why are you changing that?

Every policy is just a little bit different, and it may even be that different customers see different channel orders for the same TV provider. See if you can spot a pattern.

Anonymous 0 Comments

For over-the-air TV, the channel number is literally mapped to a frequency that the channel is carried on, so you have to get a license for the frequency and obviously not be near another transmitter of the same frequency. In the digital era, some channels are named like “12.1” and “12.2” indicating that on channel frequency 12 there were 2 different channels found.

For cable TV it’s all up to the provider to make the decision, especially in the digital TV era where the channel number usually doesn’t mean anything about the frequency. Channels may be grouped by purpose (eg: common vs premium channels, genre/category, or anything else), characteristics (eg: foreign language or alternative audio channel) or just that the next channel gets the next available number. Consider that some of them have been around a long time, and channels do come and go. Without occasionally re-numbering channels it can get itself messy over time, and customers are not likely to appreciate having channel numbers changed just for no real reason. Grandma knows Jeopardy is on at 7:00 on channel 8, why are you changing that?

Every policy is just a little bit different, and it may even be that different customers see different channel orders for the same TV provider. See if you can spot a pattern.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Another interesting tidbit is that some of the channel positions are dictated by the contracts between the media corporations (Fox, Disney, ESPN, etc) and your local cable company. They don’t necessarily specify the channel numbers but can specify which channels need to be grouped together and how far away some channels need to be from others.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Another interesting tidbit is that some of the channel positions are dictated by the contracts between the media corporations (Fox, Disney, ESPN, etc) and your local cable company. They don’t necessarily specify the channel numbers but can specify which channels need to be grouped together and how far away some channels need to be from others.