In an industry milestone, TCI Cablevision of Dallas said
last week that it had become the first cable system anywhere to hit the
As of July 6, the AT&T Broadband & Internet
Services system had 106,000 digital customers -- a 21 percent penetration rate among
470,000 analog customers in the Dallas Metroplex.
Nationally, the MSO has 1.3 million "TCI Digital
"Not very long ago, digital-cable technology was
little more than a theory," AT&T Broadband CEO Leo J. Hindery Jr. said in a
prepared statement. "That it has been embraced with such enthusiasm by our Dallas
customers is a profound statement about the commitment of the women and men of TCI's
TCI launched digital to about 25 percent of the Dallas
market in the first quarter of 1998, regional marketing director Donna Davis said. By the
following June, when it launched in the remaining 75 percent of the market, the service
had a mere 1.5 percent penetration.
In order to attract customers, the MSO unveiled a
full-blown marketing campaign that included television, radio, direct mail, free-standing
newspaper inserts and outside advertising.
The media blitz was built around a jingle that advised
consumers, "Everybody's Doing It," which became the theme for all of the
company's marketing efforts.
One year later, digital cable at the Dallas system had a
six-figure subscriber base.
"The story here is the rapid-fire penetration,"
Davis said. "In my 16 years in the cable business, I can't tell you of a product
that has had that kind of growth or acceptance."
TCI's "Bronze" base package retails for
$41.99 per month, highlighted by 87 channels of basic and expanded-basic programming and
digital special-interest channels, along with the set-top converter, universal remote and
multiplexed Starz! and Encore movie channels.
Other packages range from $51.99 to $69.99 per month,
featuring between one and four multiplexed-premium services.
The MSO's success with digital cable comes despite
service headaches that municipal officials said continue to produce an average of 30
complaints per month, ranging from outages, to billing problems, to missed service
As a result, city officials barely approved the
company's latest round of rate hikes, which added $1.79 per month to the average
cable bill last month.