The Disney Channel, Court TV and FX will be standard under the new basic plan.
By CYNTHIA VINARSKY
VINDICATOR BUSINESS WRITER
BOARDMAN -- Armstrong Cable Services says it's paying more to access cable networks like ESPN and CNN, so basic package customers can expect to pay more, too -- about 10 percent more starting September 1.
Armstrong will bill customers $33.95 a month for basic cable, a $2.99 monthly increase, but also will increase its basic lineup to 61 channels. Armstrong promised to freeze its basic rate after the increase "until at least 2003."
The new basic channel list will include the Disney Channel, formerly a premium service, while Court TV and FX, which features NASCAR coverage, will be offered for the first time.
Krista Nardella, an Armstrong spokeswoman, said all three of the new basic channels have been heavily requested by viewers.
Access costs: Paul Wachtel, general manager at the company's Boardman office, said the fees for securing cable networks such as ESPN, USA and CNN have risen dramatically over the last few years.
Customer demand has prompted the company to add other channels, too -- Fox News, the women's entertainment channel WE and Speedvision, an auto racing channel -- were all added over the past year.
Wachtel said the rate increase doesn't cover Armstrong's growing costs for programming fees, insurance, gasoline and labor. Those added costs will be paid for through sales of other noncable services and advertising.
Former Disney Channel subscribers will actually see their monthly bills drop, Nardella explained, since they'll no longer be charged a $7.99 monthly fee for the channel.
Digital bills: Armstrong Digital Cable subscribers' bills will be unchanged. They'll pay more for basic cable, but the extra fee they pay for digital service will drop from $12.95 to $9.95 a month, balancing out the increase in basic service.
That change is part of the company's plan to offer more bundled service packages, Nardella said, which will allow subscribers to save when they use several different Armstrong products. The company also is offering special pricing packages for Zoom, its cable Internet service.
Based in Butler, Pa., Armstrong has 204,000 customers and operations in Maryland, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. The company has 43,000 Mahoning Valley customers, most in Mahoning County.