NorthwesTel Cable boosts subscriber numbers
Lower prices, better options prove popular

by Doug Ashbury
Northern News Services

NNSL (Nov 12/97) - Days after NorthwesTel Cable Inc. slashed rates and added channels, Yellowknifers tuned in.

NorthwesTel Cable general manager Aivy Reinfelds said Monday that since the Nov. 1 changes, new subscriptions have gone up about four per cent.

NorthwesTel Cable has about 4,500 subscribers.

"You don't see numbers like this every day," said Reinfelds, who joined NorthwesTel Cable from Rogers Cable Systems Ltd., where he was national marketing manager.

Among the changes, a 21 per cent decrease in the price of the basic red cable package to $29.95 from $38.09 and a 27 per cent drop in the red, green package to $45.90 from $62.82.

"Our prices rival anybody down south," he said.

Sixty per cent of NorthwesTel Cable's subscribers opt for the second-tier package.

For those that must have it all, the red-blue-green-gold package now costs $74.95 compared with $104.97 under the old scheme, a 29 per cent drop.

The company not only lowered rates but also made programming improvements.

Among the changes, TSN and YTV were moved to the basic or red, package while Discovery and Family were added to the green package.

Movie channels were moved from gold.

The company brought in 10 new channels -- from history and comedy to golf and cartoon channels -- to make up a new gold package. There was even space for an outer space station.

On the future, the company has room for a dozen more channels. "We're looking at adding other channels. There's no shortage of product."

Reinfelds said the Nov. 1 changes will, initially, cost more than revenue generated by new subscribers and upgrades.

But it's worth it, he said. "We prefer to have the customer.... You can launch services, but if you don't have customers, it won't matter."

The company also spent about $200,000 buying and outfitting a media van to cover local events.

When NorthwesTel acquired Mackenzie Media, it dropped cable rates only $1.

"People said 'so what?' This time we wanted to make it a real so what."

Northwestel Inc. acquired Mackenzie, then owned by Brian North, Ronald Williams and Weston MacAteer, in 1996.

NorthwesTel Inc. is wholly-owned by Bell Canada Enterprises Inc.