CenturyLink moves into Prism TV 'soft launch' in Omaha

CenturyLink (NYSE: CTL) appears to be moving ahead with the announced "soft launch" of its Prism IPTV service in Omaha, building hopes among both local officials and a telecom analyst that the telco will bring not only competition, but innovation to the market.

In a press release commenting on details of the soft launch, telecom analyst Jeff Kagan admitted that he was "initially disappointed with CenturyLink progress" in the television space but is heartened by the Omaha launch and hopeful that the nation's third biggest telco is finally getting into the game with its two bigger brethren AT&T (NYSE: T) and Verizon (NYSE: VZ).

"They have not been innovating as aggressively as AT&T and Verizon, but they are innovating," Kagan said in the release. "They are not moving into television and competing with the cable TV industry as rapidly as AT&T and Verizon, but they are moving into this space."

CenturyLink has been promising that the soft launch would happen during the second quarter and Prism TV fliers have been left in doors in at least one neighborhood, the Omaha World-Herald reported.

Local government officials are hopeful that the launch will bring down prices from incumbent cable provider Cox Communications, although city administrator Jeff Kooistra said told the newspaper he's still a bit in the dark about details of how the service works or how the fiber system would be installed in city rights of way.

Still, he said, the promise is there.

"People always like to have options and this gives them another wired option," he said. "I think it's a good economic development tool for our community."

Danny Pate, CenturyLink's top executive in Omaha declined to comment to OWH on the service.

Kagan was not as reticent to discuss the launch and he agreed with Kooistra that it looks like the new service will offer competition to the incumbents, if not at a lower price.

"The hope is as CenturyLink competes with Cox Communications, Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA) and Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC) that prices could come down," Kagan said. "I won't say this won't happen, but it has not happened in other areas around the country where AT&T and Verizon compete with cable TV. so pricing may not come down, but competition does lead to more innovation and better quality and reliability of service. customers never want to give customers a reason to unplug and go to a competitor."

The newspaper article quoted a CenturyLink salesman as saying that three service bundles will be available in the market, with the high-end coming in at $128.95.

For more:
- see this press release
- the Omaha World-Herald has this story

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