TCI to boost number of cable channels

December 03, 1992|By Los Angeles Times

Ushering in a new era in home television viewing, the nation's largest cable television operator said yesterday that it would soon employ a revolutionary technology capable of providing more than 500 TV channels to cable subscribers.

The announcement by Tele-Communications Inc., which serves more then 9 million homes nationwide, is the first major step in what is expected to be a worldwide shift to so-called "digital video" technology.

By converting a video image into the ones and zeros of computer code, digital video makes possible a huge increase in the number of channels. It also paves the way for a variety of high-tech services, such as "interactive" TV and high-definition television.

TCI said that it would roll out digital service to 1 million subscribers beginning in January 1994. The company said that it has not determined in which cities the service would be offered.

Initially, customers would have access to 50 to 70 channels offering 20 to 30 pay-per-view movies, a variety of college sports events and cable services not already available on their systems.

The digital services would be in addition to the 54 regular channels available on most TCI cable systems. Because 10 digital channels require only one standard cable channel, TCI would be able to offer more than 500 channels if there was enough demand.

Future offerings would include "interactive" programs like home shopping, participatory games and educational programs that allow students to "talk back" to the TV.

"Our ultimate goal is to give control of the TV service back to the customer, to allow people to build their own customized TV services," said Bob Thomson, TCI's vice president of engineering.

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