ECOlogy cable channel to be based in Howard

February 10, 1994|By Mark Guidera | Mark Guidera,Sun Staff Writer

A new cable television channel offering environmental news and entertainment has selected Howard County for its national headquarters.

Eric McLamb, an Ellicott City resident who is founder and chief executive officer of the ECOlogy Channel, said he and his partners chose Howard over Atlanta and other areas because of its proximity to Washington and the many environmental organizations and regulatory agencies there.

The channel expects to air its first 24-hour broadcast in December. But it faces an uphill climb to get big cable system operators such as Comcast and TCI to offer its program to subscribers, industry analysts say.

"It's a real difficult sell right now for start-up cable companies," said Rich Brown, an assistant editor and reporter in the New York bureau of Broadcasting and Cable magazine.

"Channel capacity is very limited right now," he said. John H. Hoagland, vice chairman of the company and a former executive with the Christian Science Monitor, said he believes that channel space will begin to open up in 1995 as large cable system operators shed high debt and invest in new technologies.

"There is also a growing national interest in the environment," he said

Mr. McLamb said he believes that the channel's programming will be marketable because it will be "very entertainment driven."

"We will provide programming that has a balanced view of environmental issues and events. Our main goal will be to show how people not only affect the environment but [how they] are connected to it," said Mr. McLamb, 38, a former marketing and public relations executive with the Discovery Channel and the Turner Broadcasting System.

"There are a lot of good documentaries and programs out there about the environment. But the thing I think a lot of them miss is showing how people are connected to the environment while entertaining them."

The ECOlogy Channel has not signed any multiple cable system operators, but Mr. McLamb said the company has pitched its concept to several of the nation's largest cable companies and has drawn interest.

ECOlogy Channel executives plan a major push beginning March 15, offering those that sign 50 percent of subscriber fees.

The company is looking at Howard County sites for its production and broadcast facility.

For now, business is handled out of Mr. McLamb's home and out of the Boston offices of J-Net Broadcasters Inc, a media consulting and television program production company. J-Net, headed by Mr. Hoagland, owns a 20 percent share in the ECOlogy Channel and will oversee program production and acquisition.

ECOlogy Channel partners said they expect the company to break even within three years.

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