Multimedia sets strategy for converging communications p. 37

By: Editorial Staff A $150 MILLION upgrade of Multimedia Inc.'s cable systems during the next five years highlights the Greenville, S.C., company's strategy to "strengthen its competitive position, enhance the value of its assets and take advantage of opportunities" resulting from successes in newspaper publishing, broadcasting, entertainment programming and cable television.
The company will spend approximately $90 million during the next two years to upgrade coaxial cable to fiber-optic cable, increasing capacity from 40 to as many as 110 channels. The balance of the investment will go into digital compression and installation of interactive converter boxes in the 50% of subscribing households expected to want the enhanced service.
Multimedia chairman, president and CEO Walter Bartlett noted that his company recently signed an agreement to acquire 50,000 cable subscribers in areas adjacent to Wichita, fulfilling the "goal of obtaining cable access to virtually every household" in the metropolitan statistical area.
The arrangement, which conforms to Multimedia's geographic concentration of cable operations, involves a trade to Tele-Communications Inc. of about 39,000 Illinois and Oklahoma cable-TV subscribers and an undisclosed cash payment to TCI.
Multimedia Cablevision in Wichita, through a partnership with a subsidiary of Adelphia Cable Communications, soon will begin alternate access to long-distance networks for the area's commercial customers, using a fiber-optic loop around the city that features full redundancy.
Multimedia also said its biggest daily newspapers ? in Greenville, S.C.; Asheville, N.C.; and Montgomery, Ala. ? will join a BellSouth Corp.-Cox Enterprises consortium to market classified and yellow pages advertising by telephone throughout the southeastern states served by BellSouth.
WBIR-TV, Multimedia's Knoxville station, plans to launch a local news and talk cable channel in partnership with Scripps Howard Cable TV of Knoxville. Other area cable operators agreed to carry the channel, making its three hours of original weekday programming, rebroadcasts of WBIR newscasts and other programs available to about 70% of the city's cable households this spring.
Multimedia said it will limit its involvement in TV movie production, allocating more resources to develop programming with greater long-term profit potential. It is concluding talks with major cable operators to carry
its Talk Channel, expected to be launched in September. The news-based, 24-hour cable offering features viewer participation. Also, Multimedia Entertainment will debut two TV talk shows.
The company is spending $15 million on new color-printing equipment for its Montgomery Advertiser and Alabama Journal, Montgomery, and increasing capital investment in its security business.


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