Cox’s Calif. News delayed again

Cox Cable’s plans to start a statewide, all-news cable network in California have been pushed back again, this time because of the uncertainties connected with industry reregulation.

California News Channel president Bill Cullen acknowledged that his projection that CNC would start business by spring or mid-1993 is unlikely at this point.

Second delay

The delay marks the second time Cox has pushed back a tentative start date.

Earlier, CNC said it hoped to launch on Oct. 1, in time to cover the November elections. But that date fell by the wayside when the channel was unable to nab carriage commitments from the state’s cable operators (Daily Variety, June 2).

Cullen stressed that Cox remains committed to the concept.

The backers are holding off, he said, because of cable operators’ reluctance to make commitments in light of the recent passage of cable rereg legislation.

Since the bill’s passage, Cullen has refrained from pitching the service to operators, instead choosing to see how the law shakes out.

Not knowing the extra costs rereg will impose, operators are skittish about taking on the expense of new services, Cullen said. “It’s all a question of whether this form of government interference (reregulation) will preclude the development of new services,” said Cullen.

California cable operators, like operators in other parts of the country, are also coping with an extreme shortage of channel capacity. The lack of capacity has made it nearly impossible for start-ups to establish meaningful distribution.

No commitments

While some operators have expressed interest in CNC’s public affairs programming, no MSO in the state has yet committed to carrying it.

Although the industry is at the start of a new digital era that could ultimately lead to an explosion in channel capacity, most agree that it will probably be several years before there is a universe in which there are hundreds of television channels.

Cullen said that once the decision is made to start CNC, it will take four to six months to start operations.

Channel cutting hours

Separately, the California Channel, the statewide public affairs channel that offers unedited coverage from the assembly and senate in Sacramento, will cut back the number of hours it carries each week, in a cost-cutting move.

Starting Jan. 1, the California Channel will air 25 hours a week — from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. — instead of the 35 hours it offered from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. since the middle of the year (Daily Variety, June 16).

The California Channel expanded its hours earlier in the year after receiving backing from Tele-Communications Inc. The extra support was only through the end of the year.

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