Olympics Spike S.F. Cable Demand


New subscribers raced to AT&T Broadband in San Francisco in order to
watch the Winter Olympic Games, but some consumers said the cable operator
doesn't deserve any medals for its installation schedule.

The operator is benefiting from the change in NBC affiliates in the
marketplace that became effective Jan. 1.

The traditional affiliate, San Francisco's KRON, lost its place with the
network when the station's owner, Young Broadcasting Inc., balked at the
financial terms demanded by the network. Instead, NBC bought KNTV, channel 11 in
San Jose, Calif.

KNTV then scrambled to improve its channel placement, seeking the channel-3
slot on as many AT&T Broadband systems as possible. The station also sought
the same placement with other operators in the area.

Cable coverage is vital for KNTV. Because of the topography of the San
Francisco Bay area, the station's off-air signal is weak in many northern
communities, including San Francisco.

The station also wants the change for uniformity: It has already launched a
marketing campaign as NBC3.

Because of the affiliation switch, AT&T Broadband experienced a 15
percent to 20 percent jump in installation requests between Dec. 7 and Jan. 9,
according to vice president of communications Andrew Johnson. He declined to
translate that percentage into the number of homes gained.

According to the city, the cable operator had a 55 percent penetration rate
before the affiliate change.

But some consumers who didn't jump to cable when the affiliate switched found
their interest piqued by the Olympics.

NBC did its part to draw people to its coverage, holding a viewing party on
yachts at Pier 3 during the opening ceremonies. And AT&T Broadband
advertised cable connections as the only clear way to view the entire event.

But according to local news reports, not all potential subscribers were

According to Johnson, the current increase in installation requests was 'not
substantial,' especially compared with the jump one month ago. He maintained
that the longest wait for consumers is two-and-a-half days.

Delays only occur when consumers demand a specific day and time for an
install, but if they accept the first available slot, the wait is short, he

But some customers had a different experience. As the Games began, the San
Francisco Chronicle
received complaints that requests for service had been
met with installation appointments scheduled for after the Olympics' Feb. 24

The city's department of information services has not recorded complaints
about installation times, deputy director Denise Brady said.

Brady said some calls made to the mayor's office supported government efforts
to help KNTV strengthen its off-air signal so people wouldn't have to buy cable
to get 'free' TV.

KNTV's Web site advises noncable homes to
try to point aerials toward its Santa Cruz Mountain antenna.