Adelphia Pulls L.A. Switch


Adelphia Communications Corp. is apparently moving forward, at least in Los Angeles, with its plan to move its premium services and some basic-cable networks from analog to digital.

MSO officials last week confirmed that subscribers to some of its Los Angeles-area systems had been given written notice that Home Box Office and Showtime would be switched to digital. That means subscribers will need a digital set-top to receive them.

Adelphia's actions on the West Coast were first reported by the
Los Angeles Times.

Back in late September, Adelphia chief financial officer Tim Rigas told
Multichannel News

his MSO was considering an interim means to quickly upgrade its non-rebuilt 350-megahertz to 450-MHz capacity systems. At these systems, which have 800,000 to 1 million subscribers, Adelphia planned to "recapture" 10 analog slots.

For each of those analog berths, Adelphia would add 10 to 12 digitally compressed channels.

Using that strategy, Adelphia would quickly expand its channel lineups for those systems to 200 to 250 channels, to make the small cable systems competitive with direct-broadcast satellite until they are upgraded.

The plan called not only for premium services like HBO to move to digital, but also some basic networks, Rigas said. That's a touchy issue for the programmers, who fear subscribers won't take Adelphia up on its offer of a digital box, and, as a result, their programming services will lose penetration.

Rigas had also said Adelphia was studying the plan, and would test it in some markets before deciding whether to use the temporary upgrade strategy in all of its non-rebuilt systems.

Last week, Rigas couldn't be reached for comment. So it's not clear whether Los Angeles is a test for the Adelphia quick-fix upgrade plan, or if the MSO has decided to institute it across-the-board to 1 million homes.

Some of Adelphia's non- rebuilt systems in greater Los Angeles are former Century Communications Corp. properties, such as the Anaheim operation.

Bill Rosendahl, Adelphia's vice president of operations in Southern California, said, "We are doing a recapture strategy in some of our markets."

He also said some basic-cable networks, as well as premium services, are being migrated to digital from analog. But he declined to say which basic networks were being moved, referring that question to Adelphia's corporate offices.

Adelphia has been in talks with Fox Family Channel, which is seeking a renewal of its carriage deal with the MSO, about an agreement that would move the service to digital at some of the non-rebuilt systems. Adelphia has had similar conversations with American Movie Classics.

Sundance Channel, which recently inked a carriage deal with Charter Communications Inc., that would put it on that MSO's digital platform, is on basic on some of Adelphia's Los Angeles systems.

Because it is packaged with sister service Showtime, Sundance had heard there was a plan for Adelphia to migrate both channels to digital on some of the California systems, Sundance executive vice president of sales and marketing Tom Christie said. But Sundance never received any formal notice that it was being moved, and doesn't know if it is, in fact, being migrated to digital at any of Adelphia's Los Angeles systems, Christie added.

According to Rosendahl, Adelphia's subscribers are clamoring for digital in the Los Angeles area. But consumers are not likely to be happy with the fact that digital set-tops disable a TV set's picture-in-picture function.