The New York Times Co. and Warner Communications Inc. today announced plans to produce news and other information programming for cable television.
Executives of the two companies emphasized that the joint venture, more than a year in the making, would begin slowly, probably producing one news show and one program of lighter features from the newspaper.
The two programs would use, on camera, news personnel from the Times and the production facilities and technical expertise of Warner Amex Cable Communications, the Warner-American Express Co. cable firm. Details of the program ventures will not be ironed out for two to three months, said Sheldon Perry, Warner Amex senior vice president of programming.
It is the first major cable programming venture for the Times, which owns a cable system in Southern New Jersey with 110,000 subscribers. That system is almost certain to be among those on which the programming will be shown. Warner Amex operates one of the nation's largest cable businesses with 142 local systems.
According to Sidney Gruson, vice chairman of the Times Co., initial expenditures on the project will be relatively small and officials of the two firms will evaluate the projects before making further investments. "Let me emphasize that this is a very small beginning and we want to see what comes of it," Gruson said.
Nevertheless, the venture could spin off into many directions, officials of the two companies said. For example, Warner Amex recently won major pieces of the cable franchises in the boroughs of New York City surrounding Manhattan and the Times could supply those cable systems with news programming directly from its newsroom.
Drew Lewis, the Warner Amex chief executive, said the program would probably be shown on all the company's cable systems that have the channel capacity to add a new service. The two companies said they plan to distribute the programming by satellite to domestic cable systems and later to cable systems overseas.