DTV Upside: Big or Blasé?


Cable could score millions of new subscribers as a result of the looming broadcasters’ all-digital switchover come February 2009 (see "It’s Now For ‘Nevers,’" March 31).

Or not. 

Depends on whom you ask.

Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt downplayed the opportunity this week. On the company’s earnings call (one of the highlights: a net gain of 55,000 video subs) Britt noted that somewhere between 10% and 15% of U.S. homes will be affected by the government-mandated shutoff of analog TV signals.

But he said TWC expects any subscriber pickup to be minimal.

“We do think we will modestly pick up some customers from it but we don’t think it’s a huge thing,” Britt said in response to an analyst’s question. “Because quite frankly, multichannel video is a very mature, longstanding product at this point. There is probably nobody in America who has not been offered it several times, so these folks have chosen not to buy it.”

Down in Philly, Comcast chief operating officer Steve Burke was a lot more bullish.

“As the country moves to all-digital in terms of the broadcast business, this could create a real opportunity for us to gain new customers,” he said, on Comcast’s call.

Continued Burke, “There are over 8 million people in our footprint that don’t have cable or satellite and receive their broadcast signals over the air. Many of these people have analog sets and are going to need to do something and we think we provide a very efficient and attractive option for these people.”