Time Warner Cable's Wilmington, N.C., system has begun
running full-page anti-theft ads in local newspapers in an attempt to scare up some of the
estimated 2,000 black boxes that are being used to steal cable services in the area.
The ad, which first ran last month, tells the story of
Charles Frederick Pridgen, who was convicted last September of selling illegal cable
converters. Pridgen was ordered to pay Time Warner $30,000 as part of a civil settlement.
The ad gives readers amnesty until April 15 to surrender
illegal cable boxes that are said to have been sold by Pridgen.
"We have an extensive list of people whom we know have
the boxes in this area," said Thomas Smith, vice president of marketing for the
company's Wilmington system. After April 15, the operator will take steps to file
civil actions against all of those who don't turn in their illegal converter boxes.
A previous amnesty campaign that ran last fall turned up
457 boxes, Smith added.
Cable theft probably represents $1.5 million in lost
revenue "within this division alone," Smith estimated, when considering the
stolen pay-per-view events and premium-movie channels.
Smith said he hopes that the ad campaign will be one more
step in the ongoing process of educating the public that cable theft is an illegal act.
"The problem still remains out there that people
perceive stealing cable as no big deal," Smith said. "Any other business that
had $1.5 million stolen from it would take that seriously."