Time Warner Cable is moving to all-digital transmission for its cable TV customers, and is starting its nationwide move in the middle of Maine.
The cable company is targeting the 90,000 customers it has in its Augusta market, which covers 105 communities stretching out to Camden and Rockport, down to the Oxford region and containing cities like Lewiston, Auburn and Waterville. Those 90,000 represent about a quarter of Time Warner’s base in Maine, according to spokesman Andrew Russell. Time Warner is the second-largest cable company in the United States, with more than 5.9 million video, phone and Internet customers.
“This is the pilot for the whole company; this is the first Time Warner Cable system to launch this,” said Russell.
What this move means is that Time Warner will no longer broadcast an analog signal to its cable customers — starting first in the Augusta market this fall, then to the rest of its customers in Maine and nationwide after it evaluates the first part of the roll-out.
Customers who subscribe to Time Warner’s Basic or Classic packages will need to get a small adapter from the cable company. The adapter is about the size of a deck of a cards; the cable goes in one end, it translates the signal from digital to analog, and the other end plugs into the TV.
Customers who currently subscribe to digital cable from the company and have set-top boxes won’t need to do anything. If they have extra TVs without set-top boxes, however, they will need to get either additional boxes or an adapter for them, Russell said.
Russell said a minority of Time Warner’s customers who will need an adapter, but “they’re important customers,” he said.
Additionally, consumers with newer televisions equipped with QAM tuners can receive a digital signal without an adapter, Russell said.
Customers who need an adapter will have to contact Time Warner at 877-801-5660, and Russell said they can start doing so immediately. Russell said customers can install the adapters themselves or a technician can do it for them. There’s no charge for the adapters until January 2014, when a 99-cent per month fee will be charged for each device.
“This is happening across our industry,” said Russell. “Our customers want the best products; they want to take advantage of all the features the digital world has to offer. Frankly this is where our company needs to be — it’s where our competitors are.”
The old analog signals take up more bandwidth than do the digital signals, Russell said. As a result, when Time Warner cuts off the analog signals, the company will be providing faster Internet broadband service and more digital phone services.
In addition, both Basic and Classic subscribers are getting additional channels with the switchover. Basic customers will get CSPAN 2, EWTN, Knox TV, All News Channel, WGME’s The Cool TV, News 8 Now, NBC Weather Plus, MPBN, MPBN2, CREATE, PBS World, RT TV, Shop Zeal 1-5 and ONTWC.
Classic subscribers already get those channels; they will receive the CMT, TruTV, Oxygen, Travel and Speed channels after the switchover.
No channels will be lost in the transition, Russell said.
Over the next month, Time Warner will run a media campaign, reaching out to its central Maine customers with commercials, print ads and direct mail. Over the last few weeks, Time Warner has been installing adapters during service calls and has talked about the coming switchover with customers during interactions.
The actual migration in the Augusta area will come in two phases, with the first set of channels cutting over to digital-only in late October and the second set in November.
Russell said the company chose the mid-Maine market as the pilot roll-out because there was a good mix of urban and rural customers and a sizable amount of customers to assess the process.
For more information, visit www.timewarnercable.com/godigital.