From the Ventura County Star
Time Warner plans smooth shift
Adelphia cable buyer says the changes will be gradual
By Jim McLain,
July 24, 2006
Nearly 200,000 Ventura County cable TV subscribers are scheduled to start receiving service from a new company next week, but it could be a month or two before most people notice the change.
The $17.6 billion buyout of bankrupt Adelphia Communications Corp. by industry giants Time Warner Cable and Comcast Corp. is scheduled to close Monday, with Time Warner acquiring Adelphia's systems and more than 1.5 million customers in Southern California.
Adelphia provides cable service everywhere in Ventura County except West Ventura, where the provider is Kirkland, Wash.-based Wave Broadband.
The deal, approved by the Federal Communications Commission on July 13, will make Time Warner the Los Angeles area's largest cable provider with 1.9 million customers in Ventura, Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino and Riverside counties, said company spokesman Deane Leavenworth.
Time Warner is currently ranked No. 4 with about 350,000 subscribers in Los Angeles and Orange counties. Nationally, the company will remain No. 2 with about 14 million subscribers, well behind Comcast with 22 million, Leavenworth added.
Time Warner, based in Connecticut, will continue to run its Southern California operations from Chatsworth, but it will keep all of Adelphia's local offices open and staffed with existing workers, Leavenworth said. Contact and service phone numbers will not be changed.
Time Warner will have a customer care vice president whose job will be to make service consistent and the company accountable to subscribers, Leavenworth said.
While employees will have new uniforms and ID badges and answer phones with the new name beginning Aug. 1, other changes will be made more slowly. Leavenworth said the company wants to make the switch as seamless as possible for subscribers, sending notices on how billing will be handled in the first two months, but delaying channel lineup and other system changes until the late fall.
"We want to keep the wheels on the bus," said Leavenworth. "We want to make sure that people still get their service when they call, that when they call we answer the phones and that they get their bill on time. Then we'll change the system."
Time Warner's first two goals will be to integrate its system with Adelphia's so that most customers notice nothing except an improved picture, Leavenworth said, and to upgrade Adelphia's equipment so a host of new services can be offered, such as expanded digital cable with numerous HDTV channels and digital telephone calling.
The phone service, launched in 2004, has more than 2 million customers, he said. Priced at $44.95 a month as a stand-alone service or $39.95 monthly if bundled with other Time Warner services, the phone plan offers unlimited local and long-distance calling throughout North America.
Time Warner is not planning to increase its rates, Leavenworth said, but customers could pay more as channels are added.
He said the basic analog cable lineup will see few changes, but the digital cable service will see significant additions before the end of the year. The company plans to group sports, movie, children's, news and other channels by category to make channel surfing more convenient.
"While change can be disruptive, the fact that we are organizing it into a convenient, user-friendly format will quickly turn into a great advantage for subscribers," said Leavenworth. "It makes the viewing experience easier, and when we add channels, you kind of know where they're going to go."
Adelphia's high-speed Internet subscribers will see no changes immediately, but will probably have to add an extension to their e-mail addresses in a few months, he added. Company officials have not decided what the extension will be, but believe adding it will be less disruptive to subscribers than complete address changes.
Adelphia, with more than 5 million subscribers nationally, filed for bankruptcy in 2002 and agreed to sell its systems to Time Warner and Comcast in April 2005. Antitrust regulators approved the deal earlier this year.
The bankruptcy resulted in prison sentences for Adelphia founder John Rigas and some members of his family who were found guilty of defrauding the company out of hundreds of millions of dollars.
Paul Jacobson, an Adelphia spokesman, said the Greenwood, Colo.-based company will become a holding company on Aug 1. He said the bankruptcy judge ordered Adelphia to hold the $17.6 billion its buyers are paying for its assets until a creditors dispute is settled and approved by the bankruptcy court.
Adelphia began buying Ventura County cable systems in the late 1990s, acquiring all but the former Avenue Cable in Ventura by 2000.
The city of Thousand Oaks sued when Adelphia acquired Verizon Americast, its former provider, saying the acquisition violated its franchise agreement because Verizon did not seek the city's permission to sell. The suit was settled in February, City Attorney Amy Albano said, because the Time Warner buyout complies with its franchise.
On the Net:http://www.timewarnercable.com/socal
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