Mediacom's Pitch: Free Basic 'Til 6/12

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Making marketing lemonade out of digital-TV-transition lemons, Mediacom Communications last week made this offer to nonsubscribers in its service areas: sign up for basic cable — including local broadcast and public-access channels — and get it for free until June 12. No gear needed and no installation charge.

Thomas Larsen, the cabler's vice president of legal and public affairs, said local broadcast outlets had given the offer a lot of play as part of their DTV-education efforts. Confusion could be a serious situation in 1.3 million-subscriber Mediacom's markets, as 124 broadcasters were on the list of those intending to convert to digital from analog before June 12, he said. People who don't have cable (or satellite) could be forced to toggle between digital and analog antennas to find over-air stations after Tuesday, assuming all stations don't switch in a market. And the government doesn't want whole markets to switch before June 12 (see related story, page 2).

The cabler set up a toll-free number to order the free service: 1-800-332-0245. Larsen said it was too early to tell how many people had called for the offer, made available last week, but said activity would likely pick up on or after Tuesday.

He said he heard, “anecdotally,” that one non-subscriber called to order the service because the installation fee was waived.