Cable Operators

Big Deals, Changes for Markets

1/19/2007 7:07 PM Eastern

Consolidation has once again transformed Multichannel News' list of the top 100 cable systems. Thanks to Comcast and Time Warner Cable's acquisition of Adelphia Communications, system swaps between between the two companies and organizational changes at other operators, a slew of systems either expanded their footprint or were swallowed up by larger clusters. Fewer than three quarters of the systems on last year's list survived into 2007 with the same division name. And, many of the survivors have a much expanded footprint.

Thanks to those changes, the 100 largest systems now serve 54,276,131 basic subscribers, significantly up from 51,013,116 in 2006 and 47,644,436 in 2003.

Consolidation and reorganization's effect was most obvious in such areas as southern California, Ohio, Texas and New England, where Time Warner divisions swallowed up a number of Adelphia and Comcast operations, or in Washington, D.C., Boston, St. Paul., Pittsburgh, Houston and Florida where Comcast expanded its clusters or gained new systems.

Big markets were the most affected. Last year, a system with 600,000 basic subscribers would have easily made it into the top 25. This year, that system would rank 32nd.

The impact of the deal making went beyond the Adelphia deal. Cox Communications and Charter Communications systems also changed hands and for the first time Suddenlink Communications has a system in the top 100.

But the cutoff for making the list actually fell from 150,000 basic subscribers in 2006 to 107,000.

In general, many of the systems reported healthy growth in basic-subscriber counts. Among the systems returning to the list, 62% saw subscriber counts increase and only 16% declined, with the rest staying about the same. Consolidation and reorganization helped account for some of that growth but a number of systems that didn't significantly change their footprint also showed healthy increases, indicating that cable is beginning to make headway against satellite competition.

Despite all the organizational changes, the talent pool for the industry's top managers remained remarkably similar. More than three quarters of the top executives (76) were on last year's list. And at least 5 other top managers have been on previous lists.

Women, though, didn't fare as well. Only 14 of the top systems are now managed by women, down from 20 last year and 23 in 2005.

Tighter control over bigger clusters by a few key players can also be found in another statistic: This year only a handful of systems provided us with penetration data for their other products, down from nearly a third three years ago.

As always, there are a few important caveats. Ideally, Multichannel News would like to rank the largest systems by franchise area or market and include a great deal of information about other digital products. But cable systems for specific franchises and designated market areas are now almost always managed by larger divisions, which have the final say on issues like pricing and channel lineups. None of the major operators currently provide information by market or franchise area to the press and with a few notable exceptions are not willing to share data on specific products for their larger divisions.

That has forced us to adopt a very liberal definition of what constitutes a cable system. While many of the systems ranked here cover tight geographical areas that would fall into the traditional definition of a cable system, others span more than one state. As a result, the listing reflects how the major operators manage their operations.

The subscriber data is the most recent available, generally at the end of the third quarter, though a few systems provided November and December data and pricing for the expanded basic is for either December 2006 or Jan. 2, 2007.

The 2007 Rankings
Rank System Basic Subscribers
1 Cablevision Greater New York 3,110,800
2 Time Warner Cable Southern California 1,900,000
3 Comcast Greater Chicago Region 1,780,000
4 Comcast San Francisco Bay 1,700,000
5 Comcast New Jersey 1,400,000
Time Warner Cable of N.Y. and N.J. 1,400,000
7 Comcast Michigan Region 1,300,000
8 Comcast Philadelphia 1,100,000
Comcast Washington State 1,100,000
Comcast Potomac Region 1,100,000
Comcast Maryland/Delaware 1,100,000
12 Bright House Networks, Tampa Bay 1,060,000
13 Comcast Mid-South Region 1,024,307
14 Time Warner, Northeast Ohio 980,200
15 Cox Arizona 954,000
16 Comcast Three Rivers 850,000
17 Bright House Networks, Central Florida 815,000
18 Comcast Atlanta 765,000
19 Comcast Central California 750,000
20 Comcast Houston 730,000
21 Comcast Central Pennsylvania 725,000
22 Comcast South Florida 715,000
23 Comcast Connecticut-Western Massachusetts 705,000
24 Comcast Colorado 700,000
Comcast Northern New England 700,000
26 Comcast Gulf Coast 691,000
27 Charter Central States 646,200
28 Comcast Metro Boston 640,000
Time Warner Cable Southwest Ohio 640,000
30 Comcast — West Palm Region 620,000
31 Time Warner Cable — Syracuse 610,000
32 Time Warner Mid-Ohio 600,000
Time Warner North Texas 600,000
34 Comcast Oregon/Southwest Washington 587,000
35 Comcast Southeast Massachusetts 580,000
36 Time Warner Cable Wisconsin 576,000
37 Comcast Twin Cities Region 556,000
38 Cox San Diego 537,000
39 Charter South Carolina 536,700
40 Time Warner Cable Southwest 531,534
41 Time Warner Raleigh, N.C. 501,000
42 Comcast Delta Region 480,000
43 Mediacom Iowa 464,000
44 Comcast Indianapolis 458,000
45 Cox New England 450,000
46 Time Warner Charlotte 440,000
47 Charter Tennessee 431,600
48 Time Warner Austin 431,000
49 Cox Oklahoma 429,644
50 Time Warner Cable San Diego Division 425,000
51 Cox Las Vegas 420,000
52 Cox Kansas and Arkansas 415,000
53 Cox Hampton Roads 410,000
54 Oceanic Time Warner Hawaii 407,406
55 Time Warner South Carolina 393,000
56 Time Warner Albany 390,000
57 Time Warner Greensboro 362,185
58 Time Warner San Antonio 360,000
59 Charter New England 356,400
60 Charter Alabama 347,300
61 Charter Minnesota/Nebraska 344,600
62 Time Warner Rochester 329,394
63 Time Warner Buffalo 329,000
64 Cox Greater Louisiana 307,000
65 Comcast Southwest Area 305,000
66 Time Warner Kansas City 300,000
67 Charter North Wisconsin 293,000
68 Charter Georgia 292,000
69 Time Warner Cable New England 290,000
70 Charter Los Angeles Metro 288,500
71 Insight Louisville 282,863
72 Comcast Jacksonville 280,000
Cox Orange County/Palos Verdes 280,000
74 Charter Northwest 277,400
75 Cox Northern Virginia 260,000
76 Comcast Utah 249,694
77 Charter Southern Wisconsin 232,000
78 Cox Omaha & Sun Valley, Idaho 208,751
79 Charter North Michigan 206,800
80 Suddenlink Charleston/Beckley/Parkersburg, W.V. 206,000
81 Charter Fort Worth 201,900
82 Mediacom Illinois-Indiana 199,000
83 Charter East Michigan 198,700
84 Charter West Michigan 194,800
85 Charter Central California 185,600
86 Cox New Orleans 168,652
87 Cox Gulf Coast 166,000
88 Time Warner Eastern Carolina 165,000
89 Charter Louisiana 163,300
90 Charter Nevada 140,200
91 Charter Inland Empire 139,600
92 Toledo Buckeye CableSystem 127,880
93 Insight Peoria/Pekin/Galesburg/Bloomington/Normal, Ill. 126,856
94 Mediacom Minnesota 120,000
95 Insight Northeast Indiana 119,514
96 Insight Northern Illinois 119,368
97 Bright House Networks Indiana 114,374
98 Insight Springfield 113,109
99 Mediacom Florida Region 109,000
100 Cox Central Florida 107,000
SOURCE: Company information compiled by Multichannel News. Subscriber counts were the most recent available.

March