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Suddenlink's Project Imagine a boon to subscribers

Fri, 09/09/2011 - 8:30am
Mike Robuck

Three years ago, Suddenlink Communications embarked on its Project Imagine initiative to foster the build-out of services across its footprint. The nation's seventh-largest cable operator recently provided a progress report for Project Imagine.

Project Imagine, started in late 2009, is the company's nationwide capital investment program, calling for approximately $350 million over three years, above and beyond Suddenlink's traditional capital spending levels. 

Suddenlink said in its most recent earnings report that it had completed approximately 70 percent of its anticipated capital expenditures for Project Imagine, and it expects to be 80 percent complete by year's end.

As of June, Project Imagine investments increased the average number of HD channels to 66, with several Suddenlink lineups featuring 90 or more HD channels. Video-on-demand is now offered to more than 78 percent of its customers, and Suddenlink recently doubled the capacity of its VOD service from 10,000 to 20,000 hours in most of its footprint where VOD is available.

On the data side, Suddenlink has been busy rolling out its DOCSIS 3.0-based wideband tiers, which feature download speeds of up to 20 Mbps, 50 Mbps and more than 100 Mbps. DOCSIS 3.0 tiers are currently available to 77 percent of Suddenlink's subscribers.

Suddenlink has also upgraded data speeds in several of the former NPG Cable systems it purchased earlier this year. Suddenlink plans on adding new and faster services, including a DOCSIS 3.0-based 50 Mbps tier, in many more systems by year's end.

The former NPG systems are in St. Joseph, Mo.; Mammoth Lakes, Calif.; and several, clustered Arizona communities, including Flagstaff and Sedona, Lake Havasu and Kingman.

The news is not as rosy regarding Suddenlink's attempts to carry the Longhorn Network. Suddenlink, which has a large presence in Texas, has been unable to strike a deal with ESPN, which is negotiating carriage rights on behalf of the Longhorn Network.

Suddenlink posted the following on its blog yesterday: "In Suddenlink's ongoing efforts to make the Longhorn Network available on fair and reasonable terms to customers who want it, we sent a new offer on Aug. 31 to ESPN, which is negotiating on behalf of Longhorn. In fact, we sent the offer twice – by fax and overnight delivery – and have confirmations of receipt for both.

"This new offer would give ESPN its own digital channel for Longhorn, widely available to Suddenlink's customers who want it. We told ESPN they could make this channel available for free or set whatever price they like – and keep all revenues, including all advertising revenues. Under this offer, Suddenlink would have made no money.

"So far – a week later and counting – the response from ESPN has been … chirping crickets. Not a single word. We remain ready and willing to negotiate."

To date, the Longhorn Network has secured only one national distributor, Verizon, since its debut late last month. According to The Associated Press, The Longhorn Network, which features University of Texas sports, has agreed to broadcast five games for the new University of Texas-San Antonio football program after a deal was announced yesterday.

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