FCC "Competition in Video Markets" Shows Wireless Cable Dwindling

When it comes to multichannel video distribution to the home, the real loser in the marketplace is MMDS, also called "wireless cable". Ten years ago, year-end 1993, there were approximately 400,000 MMDS subscribers. The number of MMDS subscribers peaked in 1998 with approximately one million subscribers. That dropped to 490,000 subscribers in June 2002 and to only 200,000 subscribers by June 2003. The FCC Report says, "With the advent of digital MMDS and the FCC's authorization of two-way MMDS service, it appears that most MMDS spectrum eventually will be used to provide high-speed data services.

The FCC Report also considered less traditional MVPD providers. Broadband Service Providers (BSP) that bundle video with voice, Internet access and other telecommunications services accounted for 1.5 percent of the MVPD market with approximately 1.4 million subscribers. Reports indicate 105 public power entities offer video services. Home video sales and rentals are included in the mix. The FCC Report quoted figures from Nielsen Media Research indicating VCR penetration at 91 percent of TV households. It also estimated that there are approximately 2.1 million personal video recorders (PVRs) in use, as measured by PVR subscriptions. The FCC said "LEC [local exchange carrier or telephone company] involvement into the video market over the last ten years has been lackluster." Bellsouth, whose system passes 1.4 million homes, was listed as one of the exceptions.

What about broadcast TV? Broadcast stations provide programming to MVPDs and also directly to sets not connected to MVPD providers. The FCC Report notes the number of TV stations has been growing at a rate of about 1.3 percent per year over the last ten years, from 1,518 in November 1993 to 1,726 in June 2003. The Report notes that broadcast TV audience levels are declining, During the 2002-2003 television season, broadcast TV stations (network affiliates, independent stations and public broadcast stations) had an average 45 share of all-day viewing for all TV households compared with an average 71 share ten years earlier.

If you don't want to read through the147 page Tenth Annual Report on Competition in Video Markets but have an interest in the ways the public is obtaining video programming, the ten page News Release and Key Findings provides a good summary of the Report.