Cablevision Systems Corp., the sixth-largest cable operator in the U.S., has formed a joint venture with Advance Publications’ New Jersey newspaper, the Star Ledger, to create a 24-hour-a-day regional cable news channel.

Early ’96 launch

Called News 12 New Jersey, the channel will kick off on Cablevision’s four cable systems within the state sometime in the first quarter of 1996 at a cost of about $8.5 million a year.

Sources said the channel will lose money for at least a year or two, its break-even potential dependent on how quickly Cablevision’s Rainbow Programming Holdings is able to sign up other cable operators who own systems in New Jersey, chiefly Comcast, Tele-Communications Inc., Adelphia and TKR Cable.

Ninth in a series

News 12 New Jersey will be the ninth regional news channel in the U.S. Cablevision already owns News 12 Long Island and News 12 Connecticut. The other six are New York 1 News, New England Cable News, Chicagoland, Orange County Newschannel, Newschannel 8 in D.C. and Pittsburgh Cable News Channel.

50-50 partnership continues

Cablevision sources said they hope they won’t have to offer an equity stake in News 12 New Jersey to get other cable operators to carry it in the state. The business plan, one source said, will call for Cablevision and Advance to continue operating as 50-50 partners.

Advance owns Random House and such magazines as the New Yorker, Vanity Fair and Vogue. It also has an interest in Time Warner Entertainment- Advance/Newhouse and owns daily newspapers in 22 cities.

“These news services have become extremely important to cable operators because they provide the kind of local news that our DBS competition can’t offer,” said Josh Sapan, president and chief operating officer of Rainbow Programming Holdings. Current technology prevents direct broadcast satellite distributors such as DirecTV and United States Satellite Broadcasting from picking up the signals of local TV stations and beaming them just to the geographical areas these stations cover.

Sapan said the news channels may not harvest big ratings during a typical news day but, for example, when a major fire swept through some areas of Long Island last month, “The local News 12 chalked up ratings as high as a 21. In times of crisis, these channels deliver high value to the local consumer.

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