FCC Releases Annual Video Competition Report

Although the FCC announced its annual report on video competition over two weeks ago, the full report was not issued until last week. Refer to the announcement for an overview of the Report. Here is a scan of the complete Twelfth Annual Report to Congress on Video Competition for interested RF Report readers.

The FCC noted that from June 30, 2004 to June 30, 2005, the number of commercial and educational TV stations (full power) has remained unchanged at 1,747, with more than 1,537 stations nationwide on the air with DTV as of October 2005. The report notes that almost 15.4 million U.S. TV households (14 percent) rely solely on over-the-air TV for video programming. The report notes that some have disputed that number, but says NCTA noted that about 15 percent of TV households do not subscribe to an MPVD and a "significant percentage" of MVPD households include televisions that are not connected to an MVPD service.

While I've reported on many of the studies that form the basis of the report in previous issues of RF Report, there was one table showing the number of licensees reporting they aired supplementary or ancillary DTV services and the amount of revenue generated from them. It was interesting to see the number of licensees reporting fees from supplementary or ancillary services has varied between 0 (in 1999) and 10 (in 2004), but that gross revenues from such services peaked at $570,000 in the year 2000 and dropped to only $78,625 in 2004. See the report for a description of what services are generating this revenue.

In the section on direct-to-home satellite distribution, the report includes a paragraph on satellite fleet developments and video capacity. It notes that in October 2005, DirecTV took on-orbit delivery of SPACEWAY F1, launched in April 2005. SPACEWAY F1 is the first of four Ka-band satellites DirecTV will use to distribute local HD broadcast signals into several large markets. SPACEWAY F2 was launched in November 2005 and together with SPACEWAY F1 will provide local digital and HD signals to approximately 24 markets, representing 45 percent of U.S. television households. Once all four Ka-band satellites are in orbit, DirecTV stated it would be able to provide more than 150 national channels in HDTV and the digital signals of approximately 1,500 local broadcast stations. A new dish and HD compatible set-top box will be needed for consumers to view these channels. DirecTV also launched DirecTV 8 in 2005. This dual Ku- and Ka-band satellite will supplement its existing fleet and replace an older satellite at 101 degrees WL. The report notes that EchoStar X will be launched in early 2006. As you may have read in RF Report, EchoStar X was successfully launched on Feb. 16.

The home satellite dish, or large dish, segment of the satellite-to-home market is declining, but not as fast as "wireless cable." The FCC said that as of June 2005, there were 206,358 households authorized to receive HSD service, a decrease of 38.5 percent from last year. However, it noted that one estimate has an additional 100,000 subscribers watching unscrambled channels and two C-band program packagers reported service to another 270,000 subscribers.

"We observe that, combined, these subscriber counts exceed what has been reported by Motorola's Access Control Center and thus raise a question about the actual number of C-band subscribers," the commission noted in the report. The commission also reminds readers that in March 2005, the FCC issued a notice of proposed rulemaking that would prohibit analog video transmission in C-band, with a one-year transition period.
The number of "wireless cable" subscribers continues to drop. The FCC report said there were approximately 100,000 wireless cable subscribers as of March 2005, compared to an estimated 200,000 subscribers in April 2004 and a peak of 1.2 million subscribers in 1996.

In the Emerging Technologies section of the Report, the FCC describes enhanced VSB and distributed transmission systems but does not mention any broadcasters using these technologies and offers no prediction on whether broadcasters will adopt them. The section discusses mobile video.

While much of the information in the FCC's Twelfth Annual Report to Congress on Video Competition has appeared in earlier FCC releases, the report organizes it in a way that makes it easy to understand what has happened in the past year in the field of multichannel video distribution. It is interesting reading!