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War Reports Boosting Cable Subscribership

January 22, 1991

ATLANTA (AP) _ They’re almost sheepish about the boost in business, but cable television operators say interest in CNN’s round-the-clock coverage of the Persian Gulf war has paid off by attracting new subscribers.

″I’m quite ambivalent, have mixed feelings about this. We like getting new business, but I don’t like to get business because of a war situation,″ said Bill Farmer, general manager of Capitol Cablevision Co. in Charleston, W.Va.

Capitol was among several cable systems that reported an increase in calls for cable TV hookup in the wake of last week’s outbreak of war between Iraq and a U.S.-led coalition of nations.

Atlanta-based Cable News Network, a 24-hour all-news channel, has devoted virtually all its programming to the war since the first allied missiles hit Iraq last week.

″By one o’clock in the afternoon the day after the war started, we had 70 calls from new customers and about five calls from customers who had notified us they wished to disconnect but now didn’t want to do that,″ said Romaine Pacheco, vice president for division affairs at Mile Hi Cablevision in Denver.

Those seeking a quick CNN hookup included residential, commercial and government customers.

″We got a panic call from the state Capitol ... asking us to run cable to a number of offices so they could watch CNN,″ said Ted Stuart, general manager of Heritage Cablevision in Des Moines, Iowa.

The nation’s appetite for war news is affecting all media, with newspapers running extra copies or special editions packed with Persian Gulf reports. Radio stations are expanding news reports to include more war dispatches.

The other media also have raised CNN’s profile by doing stories on the network’s non-stop coverage.

Cable executives are in something of a bind, however, over promoting CNN. They don’t want to appear to be cashing in on war.

″Whenever we publicize what we have, 24-hour news is always a strong point,″ said Larry Peterson, vice president of Cablevision of Savannah, Ga. ″But we didn’t want to seem mercenary (last week), so we didn’t say, ’Look what we have.‴

Nevertheless, any increase is good news for CNN. Subscriber fees, along with advertising, account for most of the network’s revenue.

According to documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, subscription revenues for CNN and its sister network Headline News came to $130.1 million in 1989, or 38.1 percent of the news division’s revenue.

CNN spokeswoman Kitsie Riggall said she had heard reports of more subscribers but said it would be several weeks before the network’s parent, Turner Broadcasting System Inc., could make an assessment.

Some cable systems said the war hadn’t affected their subscriber lists.

″There’s not a noticeable, gee-whiz upsurge. In our particular case, three out of four homes - or 72,000 customers - already have cable service,″ said Neil Harwall, marketing manager of American Cablevision in Kansas City.

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