Cable HDTV Available Nationwide While Broadcasters Continue to Lag

At least one cable operator in 96 of the top 100 Designated Market Areas (DMAs)—including all of the top 30 markets—is offering a package of HDTV programming to consumers, according to a survey completed by the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA).

The NCTA survey claims that 70 million U.S. television households were passed by a cable system that offers HDTV as of December 1, illustrating growth of nearly 90 percent since the first of the year when HD was available to 37 million households. In addition, 47 markets beyond the top-100 are being served by a cable operator offering HDTV, bringing the total number of DMAs in which at least one cable operator is offering HDTV to 143 of the 210 DMAs nationwide.

“The nationwide deployment of HDTV by cable companies has ramped up steadily this year,” said Robert Sachs, president & CEO of the NCTA.

NCTA reported that the number of digital broadcast stations being carried by cable operators has jumped to 304, up from 231 on September 1 and 190 on June 1. The selection of national and local HD programming available to consumers varies by cable operator and market.

“Contrary to complaints from the National Association of Broadcasters, when local broadcasters offer HDTV or other compelling digital content, cable operators have demonstrated a willingness and desire to provide it to their customers,” said Sachs. “Unfortunately, hundreds of local broadcasters are not offering any HDTV programming but instead standard-definition digital duplicates of their analog channels.”

As cable operators have continued their nationwide rollout of HDTV service to more communities, cable networks, the survey said, have continued to produce more high-definition programming. Cinemax, The Movie Channel and Starz HD! are the most recent cable networks to offer HDTV services. Other cable networks offering HD programming include HBO, Showtime, Discovery HD Theater, ESPN HD, iNDEMAND, Madison Square Garden Network, Comcast SportsNet and HDNet. In addition, A&E Network and The History Channel have announced plans to provide HD content in the near future.

Since 1996, the cable industry has invested more than $75 billion to upgrade its infrastructure and launch advanced broadband services such as HDTV, video-on-demand, high-speed Internet service, and local telephone service, the NCTA said.

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