Why Arundel Pays Less for Better TV ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY

April 13, 1993

For proof that competition keeps businesses lean, imaginative and responsive to customers, note the running skirmish between a pair of cable TV companies in Anne Arundel County.

North Arundel Cable Television and Jones Intercable vie for some 40,000 households in northern and central portions of the county. If you weren't aware that this is one of the few areas where cable providers square off, you might have guessed from the companies' relatively low fees.

Subscribers of North Arundel pay a monthly bill of $22.15 for 46 channels on expanded basic service (48 cents per channel), while Jones Intercable subscribers pay $21.20 for 53 channels on expanded basic (40 cents). By contrast, customers of Comcast Cablevision outlets in Baltimore, Harford and Howard counties pay from 65 to 70 cents per expanded basic channel.

Each Arundel outlet is even more of a bargain because its basic service includes the Disney Channel and Home Team Sports, premium channels that cost about $30 extra on Comcast systems.

Comcast decided not to offer HTS on basic service in those other counties, claiming most subscribers did not want to pay up $1.50 more per month for the channel. But the two Arundel companies jumped at the opportunity to make themselves more attractive by adding HTS to their basic offerings.

Companies can also benefit when a battle is waged over the same turf. North Arundel Cable estimates 80 percent of the households in the "overbuilt" area have signed up for service. The rate in non-competitive sections of the county is only 61 percent.

These days, the cable industry finds itself on the verge of a revolutionary era, when a TV viewer will be able to choose from among hundreds of channels and participate in two-way communications without leaving the comfort of the recliner. Telephone companies appear likely to get into the cable business and shake things up even further. One significant shift has already occurred with the Federal Communications Commission's recent decision to impose price controls on cable companies.

Companies that understand the necessity of adapting to change and staying competitive -- as North Arundel and Jones Intercable have had to -- should have a head start on potential rivals.

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