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Cox sees strong subscriber growth in 1999

The cable operator plans to launch digital services in its three largest markets and expects strong digital services subscriber growth this year.

Cox Communications, one of the nation's biggest cable operators, today said it will launch digital services in its three largest markets using Scientific-Atlanta's Explorer 2000 set-top box and expects strong digital services subscriber growth this year.

Cox will first roll out a digital television service offering 100 digital channels. The service is already being offered in Phoenix, Arizona, Cox's largest market with more than 600,000 customers, and will soon be available in San Diego and Oklahoma City.

Separately, the company said it expects pro forma 1999 revenue growth of 11 percent to 14 percent over last year and operating cash flow to grow as much as 10 percent.

The deal with Scientific-Atlanta, first announced a year ago, allows Cox to offer other digital services without having to upgrade the set-top box hardware.

Cox anticipates its digital services, including the @Home Internet product, telephony, and digital TV, to reach an estimated 450,000 to 500,000 users by the end of the year. Currently @Home claims some 333,000 subscribers.

"We anticipate healthy growth for new services in the coming year," chief financial officer Jimmy Hayes said in a statement.

Additionally, Cox expects its core television subscriber base to grow about 2 to 2.5 percent in '99.

Cox, a "second-tier" cable operator that claims 3.8 million subscribers, could also roll out video-on-demand (VOD) services, although no timetable has been established.

Many industry experts say cable television operators, with their regional fiber optic networks, are well positioned to deliver multiple services such as entertainment, telephone, and Internet access. Cox is part of the @Home Network cable modem Internet service.

Several other cable operators, including Time Warner Cable, Tele-Communications Incorporated, and Comcast, have ordered Scientific-Atlanta's Explorer 2000 boxes.