Ameritech New Media picked up its 35th cable franchise in
the Detroit suburbs, and the 10th where it will compete against Tele-Communications Inc.
The city of Rochester Hills, Mich., recently awarded the
company a 15-year cable franchise, allowing it to offer its Americast programming to
24,000 local households.
The agreement gives ANM almost 550,000 households under
franchise in Michigan, where it is already up and running in 25 communities.
"We've seen the benefits of competition in
surrounding cities, and we look forward to bringing those same benefits to our
citizens," said Rochester Hills Mayor Kenneth Snell, in a prepared statement.
ANM officials vowed to introduce "better service, more
stable rates and greater choice of programming" to the city's 68,500 residents.
"We're delighted that Rochester Hills has elected
to join the growing number of Michigan communities with a choice of cable providers,"
said Donna Garofano, ANM's vice president of public affairs.
TCI executives, however, have recently begun questioning
ANM's public statements, noting that in announcing a recent franchise in Trenton,
Mich., ANM claimed to offer 90 channels when it only had 81.
Moreover, TCI said, Ameritech claimed that its programming
package exceeded TCI's in Trenton, when, in fact, the MSO was offering 205 channels
after introducing its TCI Digital package.
"Even without digital, we still had something like 105
channels," TCI spokesman Scott Sobel said.
Despite reams of in-house material that have been generated
about how to compete against ANM, Sobel said, the best evidence is research indicating
that "we're doing better against them than we were doing before."
"You can tell by the number of customers that
we're winning back," he said. "I can't tell you how many, for
competitive reasons, but it has been enough to get our attention."
ANM is reportedly negotiating for possible franchises with
other Detroit communities, despite doubts raised about its future by the pending sale of
its parent, Ameritech Corp., to SBC Communications Inc.
Meanwhile, ANM announced last week that it had begun
offering its cable service in Des Plaines, Ill., a community of 21,000 households that is
also served by TCI.