01.06.2003 12:00 PM
Direct-to-home satellite outpaces cable; Broadcast TV continues decline in 2002

The FCC has released its ninth annual report on competition in the market for the delivery of video programming. The new statistics, as of June 2002, found that cable television is still the dominant technology for the delivery of video programming to consumers, although its market share continues to decline.

As of June 2002, 76.5 percent of all subscribers to multichannel video program distributor (MVPD) services received their programming from a franchised cable operator, compared to 78 percent a year earlier.

The number of cable subscribers reached nearly 68.8 million as of June 2002, up about 0.4 percent from the 68.55 million cable subscribers in June 2001. Although industry data collected for the FCC’s report period reflect continued growth through June 2002, a number of major cable system operators have experienced significant subscriber losses and calendar year 2002 may be the first year in which the cable industry as a whole experiences a net loss of subscribers.

Cable’s loss was a gain for direct-to-home satellite (DBS) operators. The total number of non-cable MVPD subscribers grew to 21.1 million as of June 2002 from 19.3 million as of June 2001, an increase of more than nine percent. DBS service has grown significantly and now represents 20.3 percent of all MVPD subscribers. Between June 2001 and June 2002, the number of DBS subscribers grew from almost 16 million households to about 18 million households, which is significantly higher than the cable subscriber growth rate.

Since last year’s report, the total number of subscribers to cable, satellite and other MVPDs increased to 89.9 million households as of June 2002, up 1.8 percent over the 88.3 million households subscribing to MVPDs in June 2001. This subscriber growth accompanied a 1.2 percentage point decrease in MVPDs’ penetration of TV households to 85.3 percent as of June 2002, indicating that TV households are increasing at a faster rate than MVPD subscriber growth.

The higher cost of cable helps explain its loss of subscribers. During the period under review, cable rates continued to rise. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, between June 2001 and June 2002, cable prices rose 6.3 percent compared to a 1.1 percent increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which measures general price changes. Concurrently with these rate increases, the number of video and non-video services increased and programming costs increased.

Though over-the-air broadcast viewership continues to decline, the FCC found an increase in the number of broadcast stations — up from 1,678 in 2001 to 1,712 in 2002.

The FCC said audience levels continue to decline as they have for many years. For total day (24-hour) viewing, broadcast television stations accounted for a combined 52.4 share of viewing in all TV households, down from a 56.2 share the previous season. During the 2001-2002 television season, broadcast television stations accounted for a combined average 59 share of primetime viewing among all television households, down from an average 63 shares the previous season.

In another finding, the number of satellite-delivered programming networks has increased from 287 in 2001 to 308 in 2002. Vertical integration of national programming services between cable operators and programmers decreased 30 percent, after remaining steady at 35 percent over the last couple of years.

In 2002, four of the top six cable MSOs held ownership interests in satellite-delivered programming services. Sports programming warrants special attention because of its widespread appeal and strategic significance for MVPDs. The FCC report identifies at least 86 regional networks, 31 of which are sports channels, many owned at least in part by MSOs. There are also 32 regional and local news networks that compete with local broadcast stations and national cable news networks.

For full details of the report visit www.fcc.gov.

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