New York -- Digital cable is selling fast at Comcast Corp.
and Cox Communications Inc., with each company claiming digital installation rates of more
than 10,000 new subscribers per week.
Speaking at the PaineWebber Media Conference here last
week, Comcast senior vice president and treasurer John Alchin predicted 500,000
digital-cable subscribers by the end of the year, up from earlier estimates of 300,000.
Comcast is installing 10,000 to 12,000 new digital customers per week.
At Cox, digital, high-speed-data and telephony subscribers
are expected to reach 500,000 by year-end, executive vice president of finance and
administration and chief financial officer Jimmy Hayes said. He added that Cox's
digital-cable count reached 200,000 in the third quarter, a 7.9 percent penetration rate
given the company's 4 million-home footprint. Pending acquisitions will add another 2
Hayes said Cox had about 140,000 Cox@Home high-speed-data
customers as of Sept. 30.
Comcast@Home is gaining steam, as well, with weekly
installs rising from between 1,200 and 1,300 a year ago to between 1,800 and 2,000 new
customers now. Alchin forecast about 145,000 Comcast@Home subscribers by year's end.
Comcast expects about 600,000 new-revenue-generating units
by year-end, with digital cable and @Home generating some $100 million in incremental
Comcast will add four or five new data markets in the
fourth quarter and end the year with 14 or 15 Comcast@Home markets, totaling 3.8 million
homes. "We're on a well-oiled path," Alchin said. "This gives us the
ability to focus on the data business in the year 2000."
Comcast also plans a major retail cable-modem push in the
fourth quarter, including a presence at 21 Circuit City Stores Inc. locations.
Alchin added that Comcast plans to fuel growth in 2000 with
acquisitions, clustering and rapid deployment of new products.
One deal Comcast had hoped would close by the end of the
year -- its tender offer for 79 percent of Jones Intercable Inc. stock -- will be delayed.
Three independent Jones board members hired investment bank
Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette Inc., based here, to advise them regarding their
fiduciary obligations concerning the Comcast offer, Alchin said. While the move does not
appear to threaten the deal, Comcast said it would cause a delay until early next year.
Comcast bought a controlling stake in 1 million-subscriber
Jones. In August, it offered to exchange 1.4 shares of special class-A common stock for
each Jones share -- worth about $840 million then.
Alchin said his company would not change its offer for the
Jones shares. "We paid for it once -- we're not going to pay for it again," he
added. He pegged Comcast's offer at roughly $60 per share -- well above Jones' trading