BY SHIRLEY BRADY

Time Warner Cable of Maine is rolling out digital phone service, with an official market launch set for next month. The $39.95 service includes unlimited calls within the continental U.S. Caller ID displayed on a TV set and access to voice mail via e-mail will be added later. As of last week 792 digital phone customers were already on board. The market also boasts the greatest penetration for Road Runner in the country.

• • • Comcast expanded its Philadelphia retail partnership with Best Buy, which promotes its HDTV and digital cable, to stores in Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Nashville and Knoxville, Tenn. The co-branded sales activation kit includes free installation and two months of HBO and Showtime plus pay-per-view movie coupons. Comcast this week deploys HD service to more than 200,000 subs in Jacksonville, Fla., and more than 2 million Atlantans. • • • Cox launched its second DVR market — Northern Virginia — on April 1. “Demand for the new service is already exceeding our expectations,” says spokesman Alex Horwitz. The availability of the Scientific-Atlanta Explorer 8000 box (at $9.95 monthly to lease plus $9.95 a month for DVR service) is being promoted with direct mail marketing, cross-channel spots and lobby signage and demos at local headquarters. Cox field technicians are also handing out flyers. • • • Insight Communications’ newest VOD market is Danville, Ill., part of its Champaign-Urbana division. The company offered Final Four games in HD to its Lexington, Covington, Columbus, Anderson/Noblesville and Lafayette/Kokomo markets. • • • Members of the National Cable Television Cooperative have been seeking the co-op’s help in launching advanced services. In response, NCTC earlier this month hosted a two-day conference in San Diego on launching HSD service; a similar seminar is slated for Atlantic City next week. • • • Time Warner Cable tapped San Antonio as its launch market for wireless HSD in advance of a national rollout. The system is now offering wireless Internet access, which covers up to four computers per home, for $14.95 monthly on top of the $44.95 monthly Road Runner charge and a one-time $24.95 installation fee. The system’s tech-hungry, culturally diverse subscribers like advanced services: Last month, about 40% of digital customers were using VOD while 10% had signed up for DVR service. • • • TWC’s Oceanic system in Hawaii is offering a little tax, er, relief to drive pay-per-view usage. Digital customers who order a four-hour Playboy PPV block for just 99 cents on April 15 will be entered in a sweepstakes to win a trip for two (including airfare, two nights hotel, $500 cash and lunch with a Playmate) to the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles. • • • AtomTV is introducing its VOD content to RCN within 90 days; Philadelphia will be first to launch. RCN last week also expanded VOD to over 300,000 homes in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens, N.Y. Atom recently tweaked its Comcast Philly VOD lineup to offer 48 short films separately within the “cutting edge” category, replacing its five anthology programs under “cable favorites.” • • • TVN is offering cable systems in the South, West, Northeast and Midwest a limited period of free carriage for VTV On Demand. The teen-oriented offering from Varsity Television includes the network’s signature programming and about 30 hours of original local content dubbed VarCity TV. • • • In Demand has inked a deal with Paramount, and now has VOD rights to movies from all major studios — except Walt Disney, which is testing its own offering. Disney’s new VOD service, dubbed MovieBeam, will be tested in Salt Lake City and two undisclosed markets by fall. MovieBeam will datacast 100 Disney films for storage on a special set-top box via unused portions of over-the-air broadcast signals. Besides adding ten titles a week, the boxes offer on-demand access to the films plus VCR functionality and DVD resolution.

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Verizon and AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh have reached an agreement to restore the RSN for Fios customers in the Pittsburgh and

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