Los Angeles --The departure of Stephen Weiswasser,
the former ABC executive who has run the Americast video consortium since 1995, raises
more questions about the future of the venture.
Weiswasser resigned effective March 31, but he will stay on
as a consultant, the company said March 5. Americast -- created by Ameritech Corp.,
BellSouth Corp., GTE Corp., SBC Communications Inc. and The Walt Disney Co. to produce
video programming for its telco members -- said Jody Greenstone Miller will take on the
additional roles of acting president and chief operating officer. She had been executive
Americast has been scaling back, scrapping its plans to
create original programming and handing over other marketing and programming tasks to
Disney. SBC has dropped out, although Southern New England Telecommunications Corp. signed
on, and it is selling Americast-branded cable service in Connecticut. Americast claims
235,000 video subscribers in 80 communities.
Like Tele-TV, the flashy joint venture of Bell Atlantic
Corp., Nynex Corp. and then-Pacific Telesis Group, Americast set out to be more than a
programming co-op. It intended to create new programming, and it signed a
multibillion-dollar contract with Zenith Electronics Corp. to deliver digital set-tops
that would run that programming across a variety of wired and wireless delivery platforms.
At the heart would be an electronic navigator designed by Disney.
So far, BellSouth's wireless cable launch in New
Orleans is the only effort by any of the partners to use the Zenith box. The Disney
navigator has yet to appear: GTE, for example, uses the StarSight Telecast Inc.
interactive guide in its Florida and California systems.
In a statement, Weiswasser said he left "with enormous
confidence that [Americast's partners] will become major players in the delivery of
innovative video programming and service."
Other executives, including former Lifetime Television
programming chief Judy Girard, had already left Americast.
Ameritech executive vice president W. Patrick Campbell, a
member of Americast's management committee, said in a prepared statement that the
partners were sorry to see Weiswasser leave, but that Miller "will lead Americast
successfully through the challenges ahead."