Cox to keep channel after personal appeal from Robert Redford

Friday, November 16th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ After a personal appeal from actor-filmmaker Robert Redford, Cox Communications has decided not to remove his Sundance Channel from its cable television lineup.

Redford spoke to Cox officials after they announced plans to stop offering the channel, which specializes in independent feature films. He also spoke to Lt. Gov. Mary Fallin, chairwoman of the Oklahoma Film Commission.

Dave Bialis, Cox vice president and general manager, said a deal was reached Thursday with Redford and his associates that will enable the cable service to keep the channel and still add four new channels without raising rates to subscribers.

``We talked and I can't give you specifics, but they were able to meet our needs to keep them on, and at the same time we were able to keep the rate we charge,'' Bialis said.

``We didn't really want to change rates, but with the other channels we were adding, and other rate increases, we were really in a pickle. So, by communicating that, they were able to do some things with us that allowed us to keep them.''

Sundance issued a statement saying:

``Robert Redford is extremely pleased with the outcome. Everyone at Sundance Channel is delighted that we were able to reach an agreement with Cox and gratified by the overwhelming support of the Oklahoma City community.''

Cox said it will move forward with plans to add four new channels after Nov. 29: the Lifetime Movie Network, the Biography Channel, History Channel International and Fox Sports World.

Before reaching agreement with Redford, Cox had said it needed to drop the Sundance channel to make way for these additions, which it said were more commercially viable. Sundance said that if Cox went ahead with its plans, it would be the first cable service to cut the channel.

``The big message here is even though we're keeping Sundance we're also keeping the other additions,'' Bialis said.

Bialis said Cox received ``a smattering'' of calls protesting the earlier decision to drop the Sundance Channel.

``We have 60,000 customers with that service,'' Bialis said, '' ... but we weren't getting a lot. To be honest with you, and this is a fact, we were getting more calls about when is Lifetime Movie Network going to be on.''

Bialis said Sundance, which was founded by Redford, has its loyal ``niche'' audience, and it offers ``a type of programming that is not met in community theaters.