Cable Operators

NECN’s Balboni to Offer Cox New R.I. Deal

5/25/2004 10:27 AM Eastern

New England has six states, but New England Cable News is seen in just five.

That’s because Cox Communications Inc. refuses to carry NECN in Rhode Island, where the MSO controls access to more than 330,000 subscribers, or 95% of the Ocean State’s cable customers.

NECN can’t put any heat on Cox by turning to DirecTV Inc. or EchoStar Communications Corp.’s Dish Network, the two main direct-broadcast satellite providers, because the network’s owners limit distribution to terrestrial cable companies.

In Washington, D.C., Tuesday to address the local cable club, NECN founder and president Phil Balboni said he’s preparing to meet with Cox later this week in an effort to reach an agreement.

“This Friday morning at 10:00, we will be laying out a new proposal for them,” Balboni said. “We hope to find the right formula for them.”

Balboni said Cox won’t carry NECN because the MSO thinks the license fee is too high. In the past, Cox has said the network is Boston-centric and not desired by Rhode Island subscribers.

NECN is partly owned by Comcast Corp. and Hearst Corp. Because the network is distributed terrestrially, it is not required by Federal Communications Commission rules to sign distribution deals with DBS.

Balboni said Comcast, waiving its exclusivity, has permitted NECN to sign deals with competing cable companies in New England but not with DBS. “I don’t anticipate that that will ever change,” he added.

September