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Orange County NewsChannel to Close

Cable: Adelphia says it will shutter financially struggling 24-hour station in September.

July 31, 2001|DARYL STRICKLAND | TIMES STAFF WRITER

After more than a decade of operations, Orange County's only 24-hour cable news channel will be going off the air in early September because of continued financial problems, the station's owner said Monday.

Adelphia Communications Corp. said its closing of Orange County NewsChannel, or OCN, on Sept. 7 will result in job losses for 97 employees, 67 of them full-time.

Pennsylvania-based Adelphia acquired OCN nearly two years ago as part of its $3.36-billion purchase of the cable firm Century Communications Corp. In a release Monday, Adelphia said it has been concerned about OCN's financial performance for many months. Despite investments, the company said it did not see prospects improving.

"You're living in an era when ad sales are flat, and the company didn't want to continue its losses," William Rosendahl, Adelphia's regional vice president in Southern California, said in an interview Monday.

Rosendahl also noted that the channel had limited viewership. OCN is available to about 600,000 cable subscribers in Orange County, but it was unclear how many and how often people viewed OCN.

The shutdown ends an enterprise launched in September 1990 by Freedom Communications Inc., the Irvine media company that publishes the Orange County Register. Freedom sold the news channel in early 1996, citing heavy financial losses.

When Century Communications took it over, the cable operator hoped to expand OCN into a 24-hour local news network for the Southland. But the plan never materialized. In the view of analysts, the region already had ample coverage that saturated the region's appetite for local news.

Adelphia, a private company, did not provide details of the losses it had sustained in OCN, nor the investments it made in the channel. But the company said in a release that "it could no longer subsidize the losses that the service is sustaining."

OCN's programming includes youth sports coverage and feature stories. Adelphia said it will incorporate some of the more popular OCN features, such as "Prime Story" and "Anaheim Angels Notebook," into other local programming.

Adelphia said OCN employees will be paid through September, and will receive severance packages or outplacement help. Adelphia, a growing family-owned business, said it would try to transfer displaced employees to its other cable television divisions across the nation.

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