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TCI has backed away from its controversial - and possibly illegal - "negative marketing" plan for the new premium channel Encore.

Cable subscribers will have to order the service now, instead of having it delivered to them unless they make an effort to cancel it.Tele-Communications Inc.'s national headquarters in Denver announced that it will change the strategy for Encore, which shows uncut feature movies from the '60s, '70s and '80s for a relatively low cost. Under the old plan, after a free preview month in May subscribers would be charged for the service ($1 a month for the first year) beginning in June unless they notified TCI they wanted it disconnected.

This "negative marketing" led to lawsuits in Washington, Florida, Texas and Iowa, and was under investigation in a number of other states, including Utah.

A TCI spokesman in Denver told the Associated Press that "unless a subscribers chooses to pay that optional dollar figure, he will not be considered a subscriber to Encore."

"They just backed off the strategy because it made people angry," said Mindy Jeffries, TCI's director of marketing for Utah. "We haven't heard yet exactly what's going to happen now."

TCI's Utah operation expects to have more details shortly, and will notify its subscribers of how they can continue to receive Encore if they so desire.

- Scott D. Pierce