NCTA Releases Midyear Industry Report

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The cable industry’s $85 billion in investment since 1996 has produced a buffet of advanced digital services that can be purchased by 95 million U.S. households, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association said in a midyear industry report released Tuesday.

Passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 unleashed a capital-spending torrent by cable companies, which upgraded their facilities with fiber to handle an assortment of digital products. Cable wires pass about 94% of U.S. households.

As of March 31, the NCTA reported that cable operators served 73.7 million basic, 22.9 million digital-TV, 17.3 million high-speed data and 2.7 million local phone subscribers. Facing aggressive HDTV competition from direct-broadcast satellite, cable companies currently offer HDTV packages to 84 million households, up 125% since January 2003, the trade group added.

The NCTA said its data were derived from recent reports by Kagan Research, Kagan Media Money, Nielsen Media Research and Warren Communications News Inc.

The association added that cable-industry revenue for 2003 was $51.3 billion, but it did not break out revenue totals by service category. The report said cable had 51.9 million premium units in 2003.

The NCTA also used the report to mark its commitment to consumer education and programs designed to allow parents to block, without charge, programming they deem inappropriate for children.

And the trade group reiterated its opposition to government mandates that cable operators offer ad-supported cable networks on an a la carte basis.

The NCTA noted that cable companies face strong competition from DBS rivals DirecTV Inc. and EchoStar Communications Corp. and a smattering of terrestrial pay TV companies called overbuilders.

“As a result of this competition, more than 25 million consumers (more than one out of four subscribers) now obtain multichannel-video programming from a company other than their local cable operator,” the association added.