Corrections or additions?
This article by Kathleen McGinn Spring was
prepared for the March 19, 2003 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All
For RCN, Patriot to the Rescue
Patriot Media and Communications has ridden to the
promising long-suffering central New Jersey cable subscribers vastly
improved service. The newly-formed cable company beat out AT&T
and Cablevision for the 80,000-subscriber New Jersey property owned
by RCN, paying $245 million, or $3,100 per subscriber.
RCN, intent on empire building among the skyscrapers of the country’s
biggest cities, never invested the money necessary to upgrade the
cable system it inherited from C-TEC. So while towns all around them
enjoyed digital, began sampling VOD, and were able to connect to the
Internet via speedy, always-on cable modems, most of RCN’s customers
in places like Princeton, Montgomery, and Rocky Hill had to
settle for first-generation cable.
Patriot, with headquarters in Greenwich, Connecticut, has pledged
to change that. The company is headed up by Steve Simmons, who sold
his 350,000-subscriber Simmons Communications almost a decade ago.
Backed by Boston-based venture capital partner Spectrum Equity
Simmons has pledged to invest some $44 million to modernize RCN’s
New Jersey network, which extends from Princeton up through Hunterdon
and Somerset, and includes Hillsborough, Rocky Hill, and Franklin
Simmons has recruited Jim Holanda to head up the effort and has named
him president of Patriot Media and Communications. Holanda is familiar
with challenges. In his last position, as vice president of Charter
Cable’s Central region, based in St. Louis and covering Illinois,
Indiana, Missouri, and Kentucky, he was charged with consolidating
270,00 former AT&T Broadband subscribers with 240,000 Charter
subscribers. Holanda had joined Charter in 1998, shortly after
co-founded Paul Allen purchased the company.
"I was around to build Charter from $2 million to $7 million,"
says Holanda, who got his start in the industry as an installer. He
left to head up Patriot, he says, because "we’re building from
scratch, truly getting in on the ground floor. In this day and age
another opportunity to do that won’t come along."
Holanda earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and philosophy
Ohio State (Class of 1987), and promptly packed up his car and headed
for California. Soon realizing that he needed a job, any job, he
a friend who was working as an installer for Comcast. In less than
10 years, he was director of business operations for California. He
then moved to east, to New Jersey, to take a job as director of
business operations here.
In signing to head up Patriot, Holanda is building both a cable
and an organization. "We inherited field people," he says,
"but RCN handled customer service, dispatch, IT, marketing, and
accounting nationally." There is no local office for those
"We’re hiring 70 people to fulfill those functions, and to get
services up and running," he says. Under RCN’s system, "it
was hard to get problems resolved," he ays. RCN’s field reps
were operating out of four locations. Patriot is consolidating, and
has leased a 28,000-foot space in Somerset, in which it will house
all of its departments.
Along with a central staff to serve customers, Patriot is promising
to bring those customers parity with area residents living in towns
served by Comcast or Cablevision. RCN had upgraded about 20 percent of
its system, and Patriot has pledged to finish the job.
"Within 12 months," says Holanda, "we’ll have digital
cable, expanded channels, and 2-way Internet." Video on Demand (VOD)
and HDTV are on the way, and scheduled to appear in about nine to
fifteen months. "The region is hungry for these
advanced services," he says. "They’ve been telling RCN. They’ve
been telling us. They want what their neighbors have."
This is good news for Patriot. The premium services significantly
inflate cable bills. Add Internet and digital cable, and order a few
pay-per-view movies a month, and a subscriber’s tab can shoot up to
$120 a month. Residents in Patriot’s newly-acquired territory are
well able to pay. Household income in the
towns it serves is among the highest in the nation. This demographic
was a "significant factor" in Patriot’s decision to bid for
the territory, says Holanda.
VOD is important to Patriot’s strategy. "I had it in St. Louis
for the last two years," says Holanda. "Just about half (of
Charter’s customers) had digital with VOD. It’s just a gigantic
Such a new way of entertainment."
VOD gives cable an edged over satellite, says Holanda. "Satellite
can’t stream video," he says. "They’re wireless." No
means no library of television shows and movies. Satellite does use
one-way video, offering the ability for a viewer to, say, click on
a baseball player and see his stats or click on a car commercial and
get specs and dealer information. "It’s limited in what it can
do," says Holanda. "You can’t ask it questions."
Satellite systems with personal recorder features, such as Tivo, don’t
him either. "Space is limited," he points out. "It’s only
20 or 40 hours. In St. Louis, we had over 400 hours of content. If
people want more, we just keep adding services."
Not taking any chances, though, cable is prepared to include personal
video recorders in its systems. "Tivo is a good product," says
Charter, his former company, is testing prototypes. "I have one
in my family room," he says. "Paul Allen has one."
Patriot customers may one day be able to order up Tivo along with
their cable, too, but not yet. "We have so much other stuff to
do," says Holanda. "VOD and HDTV are first."
Holanda will be waiting for the new services right along with
other customers. He has sold his home in St. Louis, and his wife,
Mandy, has found a new home in Montgomery. She and the couple’s young
daughters will be joining him in New Jersey soon. "Living in the
system is important to me," says Holanda, who will have to go
back to the video store to rent movies — at least for a year or
Corrections or additions?
This page is published by PrincetonInfo.com
— the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.