Throwing a Digital Lifeline


Bright House Networks will try to lure broadcast-only homes to cable by aggressively marketing a package that consists of local TV signals, high-speed Internet access and digital phone service, according to the company’s top official last Tuesday.

The idea is aimed at broadcast-only homes looking to prepare for TV stations’ transition to all-digital broadcasting in early 2009, said Bob Miron, chairman and CEO of Advance/Newhouse Communications, owner of Bright House.

“We’ll come out with different packages that make that attractive,” Miron said.

Miron’s comments came during a luncheon discussion at The Cable Show on the Feb. 17, 2009, transition to digital broadcast television. After that transition, analog TV sets not connected to cable, satellite TV or a digital-to-analog converter box won’t display off-air TV signals.

National Association of Broadcasters President David Rehr, joining Miron on the panel, said U.S. consumers have 68 million analog TV sets that will go dark unless their owners take action.

National Cable & Telecommunications Association president Kyle McSlarrow said millions of those broadcast-only analog sets were located in cable homes.

Miron’s strategy is aimed at converting broadcast-only homes that might be nervous about the DTV transition into paying cable customers, featuring a scaled-back video offering he called Lifeline.

“Lifeline is essentially a service that we sell somewhere between $10, $12, $13 a month that consists of the broadcast signals [and] occasionally one or two others,” Miron said. “We will attempt to attract people to that line of service by packaging it with maybe high-speed data and phone at a reduced price.”

Jack Sander — the NAB’s joint board chairman and a senior adviser to Belo — described Miron’s approach as “a wonderfully good alternative” for consumers that need to ready their TVs for the analog cutoff.