Harron Communications

BCI buys Mississippi cable provider

System is second major acquisition in month for Toledo-based company

Block Communications Inc. announced on Monday that it has signed an agreement to acquire MetroCast Mississippi, a cable system that provides cable television, telephone, and Internet services to more than 45,000 residential and business customers in 71 communities in 16 counties of Mississippi.

The deal, which is expected to close in the fourth quarter of this year, is subject to franchise transfer approval. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

It marks the second major acquisition this month by Block Communications, which has headquarters in Toledo. Last week, the diversified media holding company acquired Line Systems Inc., a suburban Philadelphia business communications provider.

MetroCast Mississippi is a subsidiary of Harron Communications LP of Frazer, Pa., a cable television operator that operates systems in nine states. MetroCast Mississippi will become a subsidiary of Block Communications, which also owns The Blade and Buckeye CableSystem, which provides services in northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan.

Allan Block, chairman of Block Communications, said the Mississippi cable franchise is a modern cable system that is interconnected, will be entirely digital by year’s end, and provides the three modern cable-based services demanded by consumers — cable, phone, and Internet. MetroCast also has an excellent reputation among its customers, he added.

The purchase represents a “geographic diversification and a rural diversification” for Block Communications. “There is multiple growth potential. I am optimistic this will be a good opportunity for the company for the future,” Mr. Block said.

“We couldn’t be more pleased to have another family-owned, customer-oriented company who has enjoyed a long history in the communications industry like Block Communications acquire our Mississippi systems,” said James J. Bruder, Jr., chairman and CEO of Harron Communications.

MetroCast Mississippi serves customers over a 200-mile territory, including the university cities of Oxford, home to the University of Mississippi, and Starkville, home to Mississippi State University. It also serves the hometown of Oprah Winfrey, who is from Kosciusko, Miss. The service area also includes the county seats of Carthage, Holly Springs, Kosciusko, Philadelphia, Booneville, Raleigh, Iuka, Louisville, Houston, Decatur, Pontotoc, Forest, and New Albany. Its reach even extends over the state line to small towns such as Red Bay, Ala.

As of March 31, 2014, MetroCast’s area encompasses more than 100,000 residences and has 61,000 primary service units. Primary service units include video, high-speed data, and residential telephone customers. Some customers receive all three services.

The acquisition is not the first business investment in the South for the Block family, owners of Block Communications.

In 1921, Mr. Block’s grandfather, Paul Block, purchased the Memphis News-Scimitar newspaper. The Tennessee newspaper’s coverage area extended into Mississippi.

In May, 1925, the News-Scimitar covered the exploits of Tom Lee, a 39-year-old black man who used his small wooden skiff to save 32 passengers from a capsized riverboat on the Mississippi River. Paul Block led a successful effort to have Mr. Lee invited to the White House to receive an award from President Calvin Coolidge.

Mr. Block sold the newspaper in 1926.

Contact Jon Chavez at: jchavez@theblade.com or 419-724-6128.