The heat generated by Adelphia Communication Corp.'s decision to air hard-core pornography apparently was too much for Southern California's largest cable operator.
In a quick about-face, Adelphia has stopped offering customers the chance to buy triple-X programming after receiving tens of thousands of complaints from anti-porn activists and expressions of concern in investment circles that the hard-core fare could complicate the company's pending sale.
"This has always been a political hot potato for cable operators because it's a high-margin business, but you can also drive away customers if you're not careful," said senior analyst Derek Baine of Kagan Research. "They are in the middle of a sale, and they really don't want to get into having bad press associated with this stuff."
Adelphia, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2002, would not comment on its decision beyond saying in a statement that "some concern has been expressed over this type of adult programming. Adelphia will remove it from all of its systems."
Adelphia, based in Greenwood Village, Colo., has aired softer-core programs for some time and plans to keep doing so. It began offering more sexually explicit programming from Playboy Enterprises Inc. this month for the first time in a major market.
When the Los Angeles Times disclosed the plan, it attracted headlines and controversy across the United States. Within a week, Adelphia pulled the plug.
Sources said one of Adelphia's suitors, Time Warner Inc., which has submitted a joint bid with Comcast Corp., made it known that it was worried about the potential fallout.
The biggest problems would probably come after the sale, when individual cities - more susceptible to public pressure - would be faced with approving the transfer of franchise agreements.
"You could have people who go to city council meetings and protest," Baine said.
Opposition had arisen from the American Family Association of Tupelo, Miss. Randy Sharp, director of special projects, said his group sent 130,000 e-mails to Adelphia and the Justice Department, asking Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzalez to investigate whether Adelphia's plans violated federal obscenity laws.
Adelphia's decision to offer hard-core programs was a reversal for the cable company founded by John J. Rigas, 80, who refused to air pornographic programs, saying he considered such fare immoral.
Rigas and one of his sons are awaiting sentencing for their convictions last summer on charges that they looted the company and engaged in fraudulent accounting.
The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.