Sale of Lawrence cable TV, internet operations finalized; new owner says changes in store

WOW officials have announced the sale of the Lawrence cable, telecom and internet provider that includes the Channel 6 TV station.

After its sale was finalized Friday, changes are in store for one of the area’s main providers of cable, internet and phone services.

The sale of WOW to Midco was announced in October, and Midco announced Friday that the acquisition is final. Midco officials say that potential changes for the Lawrence services — including the possibility for gigabit internet — will be discussed now that the company has changed hands.

“We are going to listen to what the employees are telling us and what the customers are saying — what the wants and needs are,” said Debbie Stang, chief operating officer for Midco. “And we will start rolling out new products, new services on a tiered basis based on what we’re hearing that they want in the marketplace.”

Stang said the company will be evaluating all of WOW’s services as part of a strategic planning procress, which will determine whether the Lawrence area will eventually join other Midco customers who have the option of the gigabit internet service

Stang said the strategic plan will include input from some of WOW’s current management as well as market analysis, and will result in a project plan for the next two years. As part of the sale, Midco has also acquired Channel 6, which broadcasts daily news, weather and sports, as well as other local shows such as “The Not So Late Show.”

As with WOW’s other services, Stang said the future operations of Channel 6 will also be determined as part of the strategic plan.

“With regards to Channel 6, the information I’ve gotten to this point is it’s got a long, great history — live games, original programming, a newscast — and we’re excited to learn more about that,” Stang said.

Midco is a regional cable, internet and service provider with businesses in North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Minnesota. WOW has more than 30,000 customers in Douglas, Leavenworth and Wyandotte counties, who will be added to 350,000 customers that Midco currently serves.

Stang said working to provide more reliable service — WOW had multiple service outages over the past weekend — will also be talked about.

“We have to get our arms around what are the outages, what’s causing them, what best practices has Midco put in place to avoid and respond to outages,” Stang said. “That will absolutely be talked about in the planning.”

A complete change of billing and service packages, though, won’t happen right away. During a transitional period of up to six months, WOW staff in the Lawrence office will continue to provide the same services to Lawrence-area customers. An operational transfer of services will be announced at a later date, and Stang said though there are differences in packages, prices will be comparable.

“I would expect the overall dollars, depending on what services you have, could absolutely remain close to being the same,” Stang said.

Stang said 68 WOW employees were kept on as part of the sale, with less than five people laid off as a result of the acquisition. However, Stang said that adding to Midco’s Lawrence-area staff in future is a possibility. She said the company’s service operations will not stay in the Riverfront Plaza, and that Midco is in the process of finalizing a lease for a different building.

“We know we’re going to bring new products, we know we’re going to be bringing new services into this marketplace,” Stang said. “We’re confident that we’re going to going to be able to grow our customer base, and with that will come jobs.”