Cable operators in the Washington metropolitan area, all provide a menu of regular local television programming, TV programming brought by satellite from around the country and premium pay services.
The cable services include between 30 and 120 channels. Customers have a choice of premium pay stations, such as Home Box Office, The Movie Channel, Home Team Sports and Cinemax, which cost additional amounts; most operators offer discount packages that encourage customers to buy more premium channels.
Currently, cable operators who have been granted franchises in the area have no competition. In Fairfax, a dispute has arisen between Warner Amex Cable Co. of Reston, which has operated there since 1969, and Media General Cable Co., awarded a non-exclusive franchise by the Fairfax Board of Supervisors in 1982. That dispute, now in the courts, has yet to be resolved, according to Warner Amex.
Systems in Arlington, Alexandria and Prince George's County are finished or close to finished, but not systems in Fairfax and Montgomery County.
Alexandria Cablevision, provided by Tribune Co. Cable of Alexandria Inc., a subsidiary of The Tribune Co. of Chicago, won its franchise in 1979. The Tribune Co., a publicly held firm, owns and operates 15 cable systems in 10 states.
The Alexandria system was completed in 1982, and service is available to the whole community. Alexandria Cablevision offers 37 channels, including four premium pay services.
Basic service provides 33 channels of programming for $11.33 a month. Premium channels start at $11 a month each but cost less in a package.
Arlington Cable Partners, a privately held company, provides a service called Metrocable. The original franchise was awarded to a different company in 1973, but Arlington Cable Partners has since assumed it. Virtually the entire city is wired for cable.
Metrocable offers 35 channels, including five pay services. Customers can receive all the channels, except the premium channels, for $13.25 a month. Premium services cost between $8.95 and $11.50 a month, and discounts are available if customers buy more than one service.
Media General Cable Co. won the franchise for providing cable to Fairfax County in 1982 and plans to have 95 percent of the county wired by the end of 1986. Media General offers three types of service and up to 120 channels of programming for between $3.07 and $11.37 a month. Premium pay channels are extra. The average home is paying $28 a month for 90 channels and premium pay stations. Media General is a subsidiary of Media General Inc., a publicly held communications conglomerate based in Richmond.
Warner Amex Cable Co., a joint venture between Warner Communications and American Express Co., has offered cable service in Reston since 1969. It offers basic service of 21 channels for $10.95 a month, an additional six channels for $6.25 a month, and premium channels for $11.95 each a month.
Prince George's County is split in two. Prime Cable of Maryland Limited Partnership, a privately held company, this week assumes ownership of the system in the northern half of the county previously run by media conglomerate Storer Communications Inc., a Florida-based company that operates 300 cable systems in 22 states. The franchise for the system was granted in 1982, and construction is complete.
The system offers 70 channels of service, including six pay services. Basic service, which does not include pay channels, costs $10.95 a month, and pay services cost $6.95 a month each.
Metrovision of Prince George's County Inc., a subsidiary of privately held, Atlanta-based Metrovision Inc., was awarded its franchise in 1981 and provides service in the southern half of the county. Metrovision Inc. operates 22 cable franchises around the country. The primary service area is wired, but the system will expand as the population grows. Basic service costs $10.95 a month for 53 channels. Metrovision offers three pay services, HBO, Showtime and The Movie Channel, for $7.50 each.
In Montgomery County, Tribune United Cable Co., owned by The Tribune Co., won a franchise in 1983 to build in the county and is wiring portions of it now. The county is expected to be totally wired by 1987.
The system is capable of providing 120 channels of programming. Limited service costs $1.50 a month and gives customers access to 32 channels. Sixty-one channels of service cost $8.95 a month. Ten premium services each cost between $6.95 and $8.95 a month.