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Satellite TV Goes Local

By Joyce Kryszak

Buffalo, NY – The embattled Adelphia Cable Company may have to fight on yet another front - this time its competition.

DirecTV, a local satellite service, Wednesday rolled out a local broadcast package, offering customers all of the local commercial channels.

As of Wednesday, satellite customers no longer need to be in the black where local TV programming is concerned.

As promised earlier this year, DirecTV is now offering six local channels - 2, 4, 7, 29, 49, and 51.

Company officials said Channel 17 will also soon be added.

Before a new federal law passed in 1999, satellite providers were not allowed carry local channels.

The change is good news for satellite customers, who have either had to do without, or been forced to add cumbersome antennas to get the channels.

But DirecTV spokesman Robert Mercer said it is even better news for them.

Mercer said the law leveled the playing field in the paid TV industry.

"This has hit mainstream, and customers really have no qualms about buying the equipment and putting it on their roofs, the price of the equipment has come down so dramatically over the years," said Mercer.

"And the last major hurdle, really, for satellite TV services was the lack of local channels. And now that we can provide local channels, there's really no reason to hang onto your cable provider."

Frequent rate hikes by Adelphia could give customers yet another reason to turn to satellite.

The price for DirectV's new 115 channel package, including local stations, is thirty-eight dollars a month - well below the average bill paid by most cable subscribers.

That could equal trouble for the financially crippled Adelphia Cable.

And Mercer said they do plan to take full advantage of Adelphia's current weakened position.

"We've launched a fairly aggressive campaign here in Los Angeles, one of the larger Adelphia markets, targeting Adelphia Cable customers, reminding them that there is an alternative if they have concerns about their cable provider," said Mercer.

He admitted that Adelphia still has the edge when it comes to the high demand broadband service.

Mercer described DirectV's alternative as "pricey," but said that price, and their competitive edge, would improve, if the company succeeds with plans to merge with fellow satellite service - the Dish Network.