Cable Conversion Confuses Subscribers

While Cox ramps up to snag disenfranchised over-the-air viewers, another cable operator is providing a laboratory of how not to conduct full digital conversion for other systems. RCN, the Herndon, Va., cable overbuilder, is taking its systems all digital region by region. Despite RCN's efforts to inform subscribers, many found out when they lost channels, The Washington Postreports.

RCN subscribers in Chevy Chase, Md., needed new digital cable boxes to keep receiving the same channels they had with analog. RCN folks said they’d included the information in bill stuffers, an increasingly ineffective tool now that so many people pay bills online. The company also said it ran TV ads about its conversion, but the article didn’t say how many and when. It didn’t help that the move coincided with the nationwide lurch into all-digital broadcasting. People in the Chevy Chase hood were fired up and started checking around with other TV providers.

RCN (NASDAQ: RCN) has about 428,000 subscribers in Boston, New York, the Washington, D.C. area and Philadelphia. It posted a net loss of $14.7 million in revenues of $187.1 million for the quarter ending last Sept. 30.