Through the Wire


Contributors: Linda Moss, Mike Farrell.

For a Cox-Eyed View of CES, Blog In

Cox Communications Inc. will have about 20 executives attending the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week, where it is the local cable company and also provides cable services to major hotels like the Mirage, Caesars Palace and the Las Vegas Hilton adjacent to CES, via its Cox Business Services Hospitality Network. Now, company officials also have a mechanism to let the world know what they think about what they see at the show.

The operator’s new corporate blog ( will include postings about what Cox officials have to say about the massive gadget-fan gathering. Part of the strategy with the site in general is to “challenge our competitors to 'keep it real,’ and have some fun,” Cox spokesman David Grabert said in an e-mail last week. “Our plan is to use this site as a vehicle for responding quickly to what we see and hear.”

Dallas Clement, Cox’s senior vice president of strategy and development, has already posted a “Consumer Electronics Show Wish List” on the site. Clement — who says that CES, with its “raucous, madhouse atmosphere,” has become required attendance for cable execs — is looking forward to seeing “all things” wireless. In light of Cox’s joint venture Sprint Nextel Corp. and several other operators, Clement is hoping to be able to leverage and incorporate wireless innovations into that Sprint deal. He’s also keeping his eyes and mind open to the “unexpected,” part of the fun of CES.

Ex-Altrio Aide at L.A. Cable Bargaining Table

With Time Warner Cable as the king of (almost) all that its executives survey in the city of Los Angeles, the next challenge will be negotiating new franchises. The company will find a familiar face across the table.

Some background: the city has approved the transfer of all but 2% of the city from Adelphia Communications Inc. and Comcast Corp. control, but those franchise areas have agreements that have been expired for two years. The city’s Information Technology Agency began the refranchising process years ago, hiring consultants and scheduling hearings. But then the City Council asserted control over the process but didn’t launch into negotiations.

Now it appears the city is readying itself to negotiate in earnest, and one of the negotiators has familiarity with the market: he’s a former executive for a Los Angeles-area overbuilder.

We’re told Steve Ross, who was an attorney for Altrio Communications Inc. until 2003, has been hired for the negotiating team by the city’s chief legislative analyst. Altrio built a competing system in the Los Angeles suburbs east of the city and intended to expand into Los Angeles until it ran out of cash, dropped most of its workforce, including Ross, and sold the systems to Champion Broadband in 2004.

Ross should have some have some knowledge of Los Angeles dynamics: Altrio had planned to expand into the city in its Eagle Rock franchise area before it ran out of money.

Insight Execs Expect A Quiet New Year’s

Executives at Insight Communications Co. likely weren’t looking over their collective shoulders this New Year’s Eve. That’s because Comcast Corp., which has the right to trigger a separation of their 50-50 partnership Insight Midwest on Dec. 31, isn’t expected to exercise that option until later in the New Year.

Comcast inherited its interest in Insight Midwest — the partnership that effectively contains all of Insight’s 1.3 million cable subscribers — through its purchase of AT&T Broadband in 2002. In May, Comcast executive vice president and co-chief financial officer Larry Smith told attendees of its analyst day meeting that the top U.S. cable company intended to unwind that partnership.

Insight — which recently went private with backing from the Carlyle Group — can delay that unwinding for at least six months after Comcast exercises its option. But according to executives with knowledge of both companies, triggering the Insight separation isn’t a top priority for the end of 2005.

“I think it’s going to be quiet this week,” said the executive.

Triggering the separation would split Insight in two, giving each party about 650,000 subscribers. Still to be worked out: which subscribers would go where, a process that executives familiar with both companies have said would take at least a year to complete.

Comcast has other priorities, mainly closing its joint purchase with Time Warner Inc. of Adelphia Communications Corp. and the unwinding of two Time Warner Cable partnerships — in Southwest Texas and Kansas City — that will likely be resolved through the Adelphia deal. The Adelphia acquisition is expected to close in the first half of 2006.