FCC Report Shows Small Drop in Broadcast TV Share

Last week the FCC released its 11th Annual Assessment of the Status of Competition in the Market for the Delivery of Video Programming. Although the report focuses on multichannel video programming distribution (MVPD) such as cable and DBS, it includes data on TV households that view off-air TV on sets not connected to
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Last week the FCC released its 11th Annual Assessment of the Status of Competition in the Market for the Delivery of Video Programming. Although the report focuses on multichannel video programming distribution (MVPD) such as cable and DBS, it includes data on TV households that view off-air TV on sets not connected to MVPD services and on the share of TV viewing attributed to broadcast TV.

The share of primetime viewing for broadcast stations (whether over-the-air or by cable or DBS) continued to fall, dropping from a share of 49 in the 2002-2003 television season to a share of 48 in the 2003-2004 season. The FCC attributed the drop to an increase in cable and DBS penetration and growth in the number of cable channels and non-broadcast networks. The FCC report also indicates that 14.75 percent of U.S. households rely exclusively on over-the-air TV for video programming. If cable and DBS operators were to carry the broadcasters' DTV channel, one interpretation of Congress' criteria for allowing the shutdown of analog TV--85 percent of households having access to digital TV--would allow the FCC to say the criteria has been met. Such an interpretation, however, would ignore the households that have an MVPD service but still rely on over-the-air reception for some TV sets in the household.

The FCC Report shows satellite MVPDs continue to grab market share from cable companies. Between June 2003 and June 2004, satellite's share increased from 23 to 25 percent, while cable's share of the MVPD market decreased from 74 to 72 percent.

The loss of "wireless cable" subscribers seen in previous years appears to have stopped. Subscribership remained relatively constant at approximately 200,000, representing only 0.22 percent of all MVPD households, although "wireless cable" operators continue to convert spectrum from video to Internet service exclusively.

The report also covers HDTV distribution, whether over-the-air, by cable or by satellite. "At the end of June 2004, HDTV service was available in 155 markets, including 99 of the top 100 markets, making it the fastest rollout of any service launched by the cable industry" according to the report.

This summary covers only part of the 151-page report. If you are interested in video programming distribution, the Eleventh Annual Assessment of the Status of Competition in the Market for the Delivery of Video Programming provides an excellent overview of the MVPD marketplace. For a summary, see the FCC news release MVPD Competition Report.