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Comcast to Reduce Analog Channels After Transition

Comcast, the nation’s largest cable operator, will probably reduce the number of channels on its analog packages to make room for HD offerings after the end of over-the-air analog broadcasts in February 2009.

On Sept. 11, the FCC defied the pleadings of Comcast and ordered cable operators to either migrate to all-digital systems by the Feb. 18, 2009, analog shutoff or continue carrying local analog channels as well as local HDTV signals.

At the Merrill Lynch Fall Media Preview in Los Angeles Sept. 17, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said the company’s systems, typically with about 85 analog channels, might shed a few.

“If we need to, and I’m sure we will, we will migrate a few of the analog channels to digital, and free up some of that 85 and maybe reduce it to 80, maybe someday reduce it to 75,” said Roberts.

With enhanced compression, switched digital video (SDV) and other technologies, numerous HDTV channels could be carried instead, he said.

Only 59 percent of Comcast’s customers get digital cable.

At the presentation, Roberts also said the company expected to continue double-digit growth for several years. As the company increases its digital penetration (with a goal of 80 to 85 percent after some unspecified number of years), customers spend more and churn less, he said.