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Cable firm to expand its service

December 6, 1981

By Tom Sowa
The Spokesman-Review

Fans of pop music and the performing arts finally earn a piece of the cable television pie later this month. Sometime after Dec. 15, Cox Cable of Spokane will add two new channels of arts and music programming to its basic service.

The channels – ARTS and MTV – will be offered to Cox subscribers for two reasons, said Skip Harris, Cox’s marketing director. The first is to offer additional programming at a time when Cox is increasing its basic subscription cost. In January, the basic cable cost increases from $8.50 to $10 per month.

The second reason, said Harris, is that recent area surveys have shown strong preferences for music and cultural programs among potential cable users.

In addition to the two new programs, Cox will also increase the number of hours it broadcasts the Atlanta “superstationWTBS. (WTBS is already carried 24 hours a day by some of the other five cable franchises in Spokane County, but Cox was limited, until recently, to transmit it only after midnight over Channel 27.

The program changes bring to 30 the number of channels used by the Cox system in Spokane. The “basic” fee gives the viewer 28 of those channels, with the two “pay cable” channels – HBO and Showtime – each costing an additional monthly fee for subscribers.

MTV (Music TV) will fill currently unused Channel 22 throughout the day. ARTS (Alpha Repertory Television Service) will use Channel 31 between 6 and 9 p.m. Both are subsidiaries of Warner Amex Satellite Entertainment Company, which also produces Nickelodeon, an entertainment and education channel for youngsters (broadcast over Channel 31 by Cox until 6 p.m.).

Initially, spokesmen for Cox Cable said the company would not add additional programming until after the first of the year. But the programming decisions were made more quickly than the Spokane company anticipated, said Harris. “We got the word just recently from our Atlanta headquarters to go ahead.”

ARTS, according to Harris, will be Spokane’s first all-cultural arts cable channel. Its schedule for the remainder of December and January includes a feature on the recent exhibit of Russian avant-garde art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, performances of “A Christmas Carol” on Christmas Day, a tape of a Royal Ballet performance of “Cinderella” and a performance of Verdi’s opera “A Masked Ball.”

MTV, which made its national debut in August, offers a spectrum of videotapes of performers, news spots on the music business, interviews and highlights of recent concerts.

Cox subscribers will have the option of obtaining FM stereo radio reception of the audio MTV signal – in other words, hearing the MTV broadcast on their home stereo.

Both MTV and ARTS will include commercials.

The expanded WTBS service is another response to viewer preferences discovered in the recent survey, said Harris. The survey, completed at the end of the summer, revealed that the most-sought new cable feature was the importation of a long-distance “superstation,” he added.

Until this month, Cox has been restricting its transmission of WTBS to the hours between midnight and 6 a.m. That was due to an FCC restriction that allowed no more than three “long-distance” signals to be imported by a cable system operator. That restriction has been revoked, allowing for a full-day broadcast, Harris said.

A possible additional “pay cable” program Cox is considering is “Escapade,” which offers adult, “R-rated” entertainment. That would not be added until the spring, said a Cox spokesman.

Sunday, December 6, 1981

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From → Cable Television

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