FCC Seeks All Cable Nets' Sub Counts

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Las Vegas -- The Federal Communications Commission sent a survey to every
cable network in the country to assist in its ongoing effort to craft new
cable-ownership rules.

The survey -- mailed Feb. 15 and requiring spreadsheet responses by March 15
-- asked several questions, including the subscriber totals for the first year
in which the networks generated profits.

It also asked for information about the programming tiers on which the
networks were carried and descriptions of the content categories in which they
fell, such as general interest and niche.

The survey and an accompanying letter have been posted on the FCC Web
site.

An FCC source said the purpose of the survey was to determine how many cable
subscribers a cable network would need to survive in the event that a few of the
largest multichannel-video distributors refused carriage.

Under old FCC cable-ownership rules not in effect, a cable network was
expected to need access to 40 percent of the nation's approximately 90 million
subscribers to cable, direct-broadcast satellite and other pay TV providers in
the event the pay TV providers controlling the remaining 60 percent refused
carriage.

The FCC assumed that a national cable network could survive if it reached
between 15 percent and 20 percent of all pay TV subscribers.

On Monday, Turner Broadcasting System Inc. announced the May 15 shutdown of
CNN/SI. The network served 20 million households, or 22 percent of the pay TV
market.

The Office of Management and Budget, which approved the FCC survey, estimated
that the agency received 323 responses. The OMB also estimated that each network
needed about 30 minutes to complete the survey, and that doing so imposed no
cost burden.

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