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Charter faces stiff competition

Monday, March 28, 2005

Charter Communications is doing everything it can to fend off the increasing competition of satellite.

That stiff competition has led to some new services for customers who have opted not to switch to DISH Network or DirecTV. Charter Communications announced last week that it is now offering Charter high-speed Internet customers music and movie downloads -- by subscription -- with its upgraded Web portal.

The way it works, according to an e-mailed response from Charter spokesman Brian Posnanski, is that Charter has redesigned its Internet start page -- www.charter.net -- to provide high-speed Internet customers access to free content, including news, sports, entertainment, weather and e-mail.

There are also two new subscription services: High-Speed Plus and Charter Music. High-Speed Plus is a package of online content from such sites as Movielink, a broadband movie download service offering legal movie downloads, and AmericanGreetings.com, Clever Island, CNN NewsPass and CNN Now, Encyclopaedia Britannica, MLB.com, Shockwave.com GameBlast and weather.com.

Charter Music, powered by MusicNet, enables Charter High-Speed Internet customers to stream music live to PCs, or download for playback later while offline. Charter Music customers also receive Zinio digital subscriptions to PC Magazine and Sync Magazine.

The cost to purchase High-Speed Plus is $7.99 per month. Charter Music is also $7.99 per month. Charter will launch a marketing campaign featuring a chance to win high-definition televisions and other prizes to encourage customers to reset their home page to Charter.net.

Posnanski said Charter will be unveiling more new products in Cape Girardeau in mid-April. He said it was premature to say what those services are.

I also asked him when Charter's new TiVo-like digital video recording service is coming, and he said "it's still on the radar. It's definitely coming to Southeast Missouri. We just don't have an exact time frame on it yet."

Charter has been in the red for some time. It is about $18 billion in debt. Last year, Charter lost 209,000 analog and gained 86,100 digital video customers for the year, with satellite services and other rivals taking their toll.

Whether these new products help keep customers of Charter from jumping ship ... well, we'll see.

* New medical equipment store: ProCare Medical Equipment has opened at 1417 N. Mount Auburn Road. The business is owned by Debbie Smith, who also owns stores in Steele, Mo., Osceola, Ark., and Truman, Ark.

Smith's son, Dereck Smith, the pharmacy manager for the Steele store, said that the business focuses on in-home oxygen, as well as selling hospital beds, wheelchairs and power wheelchairs.

"Almost everything we put out is going to require a prescription," he said. "You go to the doctor, who says you need a wheelchair or a walker, and he'll write a prescription and refer you to us."

Smith said they opened in Cape Girardeau because they had developed relationships with a few doctors here.

"We looked at the area, developed a market there and thought it would be a good spot for us," he said.

* Unusual Shop: Howard McGee said the name of his new store -- the Unusual Shop -- says it all.

"I do a lot of rambling around and searching all over to find unusual things," he said. "You may something here once, but you won't find it again. These things are one of a kind."

The Unusual Shop, which opens Friday at 709 William St. in Cape Girardeau, will feature what McGee calls old but nice household goods, furniture, glassware, some antiques and other collectibles.

* White Castle still coming: There have been some rumors floating around that White Castle had changed its mind about opening a restaurant here in the former spot of Lion's Choice. Not true, said Jamie Richardson, director of marketing for White Castle.

"We are finalizing plans," he said. "Our plans are to still come to the area. Construction is scheduled to begin this spring, and we'll open after that. We're real excited about coming to town, though."

They have to make some modifications to the building at 102 Siemers Drive. Richardson said they do not have a specific opening date yet.

Scott Moyers is the business editor for the Southeast Missourian. Send comments, business news, information or questions to Biz Buzz, 301 Broadway, Cape Girardeau, Mo., 63702-0699, call 335-6611, extension 137 or e-mail smoyers@semissourian.com.


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