Santa Ana, Calif. -- PrimeOne TeleTV, the Los Angeles
wireless-video operator, sent layoff notices to most of its marketing and sales employees,
employees and officials said.
Jim Waldo, senior vice president and general manager of the
operation, confirmed the layoffs but did not provide numbers.
The service was launched in 1997 by Pacific Bell Video
Services, part of the star-crossed TeleTV telco video consortium. When SBC Communications
Inc. absorbed Pacific Bell, the telco dropped its video operations and sold the
over-the-air service to PrimeOne.
MCI WorldCom Inc. now owns PrimeOne, which provides digital
service in Los Angeles and Orange County as well as analog wireless cable to the customers
of the former Cross Country Wireless Inc in Riverside.
Waldo said the layoffs represent "some reorganization,
that's all," and a marketing shift to more direct-mail pitches and fewer door-to-door
salesmen. But rumors that the video operation may be dumped early next year in favor of
data service persist.
PrimeOne TeleTV will continue to serve its 50,000 to 75,000
customer homes, said Waldo.
The wireless-cable service started strong, picking up some
of cable's best customers, such as multiple pay homes. Its prices were competitive with
cable at $33.95, but it offered more channels: 50, including 13 broadcast stations,
popular basic services and a proprietary on-screen guide.
It had a leg up on most local cable systems because it
offered several packages with a choice of up to 160 digital-satellite, music and
pay-per-view channels. It also had an advantage over direct-broadcast satellite services,
because the microwave service carried a handful of the most popular network and
independent broadcast stations, even though it was not subject to must-carry rules.
Part of that advantage has evaporated now that Dish Network
and DirecTV have added local-network signals in Los Angeles.
Sources said the layoffs include workers at both the El
Monte uplink site and the Santa Ana headquarters. Resumes were sent to MCI WorldCom, but
those who are not transferred there will lose their jobs on Dec. 31 and receive three
months' severance pay.