For some Hargray subscribers, popular channels such as ESPN and Fox News have been replaced by a white screen with this message: "Your Hargray Television Service is being upgraded to a digital signal."
That's because Hargray now requires its "Digital Lite" subscribers -- those who subscribe to the company's bare-bones cable package -- to install a digital adapter to keep watching cable channels. TVs without the adapter receive only 12 local broadcast channels, including WSAV, WTOC and PBS.
The change affects a few thousand customers in Bluffton, Beaufort, Hardeeville, Ridgeland and Pooler, according to director of marketing Eddie Andrews. Customers in Sun City and on Hilton Head Island won't be affected because their networks are already digital, he said.
Hargray officials say the switch to an all-digital format frees bandwidth for faster Internet connections and more high-definition channels.
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"It comes down to customer demand," Andrews said.
As of Monday, all 50 channels in the basic cable package are digital, including CNN, Comedy Central and NFL Network.
Previously, customers could tune in to those channels by plugging a cable wire into the back of their televisions. Now customers need the adapter to unscramble the digital signal and display it on the TV.
For existing customers, one adapter is free until the end of 2014. Each additional adapter is $1.99 a month. New Hargray customers pay $2.99 a month per TV.
Customers can order adapters by phone, online or at Hargray locations.
The adapter comes with a remote control and is a "plug-and-play device with clear, easy-to-use instructions," Andrews said.
It does not have an interactive channel guide, on-demand or pay-per-view services, according to Hargray.
The company started phasing out analog channels in May. So far, "customer feedback has been favorable," Andrews said.
Hargray isn't the only Lowcountry cable provider to pare down analog programming.
Time Warner Cable started canceling analog channels in 2010, spokesman Scott Pryzwansky has said. The company's basic package on Hilton Head offers 15 digital-only channels, he said.
Follow reporter Dan Burley on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Dan.
- Hargray's digital transition requires cable box for customers, Jan. 2, 2014
- Hargray reaches deal to carry SEC Network, Aug. 5, 2014