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Comcast Rebrands Suburban, Garden State

Comcast Corp.'s Comcast Cable Communications Inc. last week brought into its fold 1.3 million new Suburban Cable and Garden State Cable customers in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland through an official name change.

The move was heralded with a "welcome kit" sent to all new customers in the region last week.

"We spent some cash on it," Comcast East/West division senior vice president Michael Doyle said. "The box is loaded with premiums and incentives so people will open it."

The incentives include $5 discounts off Philadelphia 76ers tickets, free Comcast In Demand pay-per-view movie coupons and an entry form to win a Mitsubishi Digital Electronics America Inc. home-theater system.

In addition to the welcome kits, Comcast began an extensive cross-channel promotional campaign last week, using 76ers president Pat Croce as the spokesman. Comcast owns the National Basketball Association team, as well as the Philadelphia Flyers National Hockey League team and the First Union Center sports arena in Philadelphia.

The Croce spots will also run on local broadcast television to help extend the Comcast brand to nonsubscribers.

Once other pending acquisitions in the Philadelphia DMA are completed, Comcast should control 1.9 million cable customers in the market, Doyle said. Ultimately, the MSO plans to create a consistent programming lineup throughout the DMA, he added.

In the meantime, Comcast has already added its 24-hour news service, CN8: The Comcast network, to the channel lineup for customers it brought over from Suburban and Garden State.

Comcast also said last week that it plans to spend $700 million by the end of next year to upgrade 23,000 miles of cable plant in the region. "People will see a lot of new products," Doyle said, including digital cable and high-speed Internet access.

Garden State and Suburban employees were welcomed into the Comcast fold late last year when the MSO rolled out its new "Comcast Credo" with a huge celebration at the First Union Center. Those workers have started to see the Comcast name on their paychecks and uniforms.

Doyle added that each employee who is new to Comcast is expected to go through an extensive "Comcast University" training program over the next 12 months, either in person or over the company's Intranet.

"We are always hiring new people," Doyle said. "We have more recruiters than ever on staff" to meet the demands of selling and installing digital cable and high-speed cable-modem service.

Comcast will continue to play up its brand in the Philadelphia market with more special events like the one it held earlier this year, when it welcomed Bill Cosby to the Philadelphia Academy of Music. Doyle said the MSO was planning another charitable event for September, this one involving country-music stars.