Cable operators in 96 of the top 100 DMAs, including the 30 largest markets, are now offering packages of HDTV programming to consumers, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association said Tuesday.
Based on a survey of NCTA-member companies, 70 million U.S. TV households were passed by cable systems that offer HDTV as of Monday, Dec. 1. That represents growth of almost 90% since Jan. 1, when HDTV was only available to 37 million homes.
In addition, 47 markets beyond the top 100 are being served by cable operators offering HDTV, bringing the total number of DMAs in which at least one cable operator is offering HDTV to 143 of the 210 markets nationwide.
"The nationwide deployment of HDTV by cable companies has ramped up steadily this year," NCTA president Robert Sachs said in a prepared statement. "The fact that a package of HDTV channels is now being offered by cable systems in 143 markets is helping to spur the nation’s transition from analog to digital television. HDTV programming being offered by cable operators includes a variety of both broadcast and cable channels."
The number of digital-broadcast stations being carried by cable systems has risen to 304 -- up from 231 as of Sept. 1 and from 190 as of June 1 -- according to the NCTA.
"Contrary to complaints from the National Association of Broadcasters, when local broadcasters offer HDTV or other compelling digital content, cable operators have demonstrated a willingness and desire to provide it to their customers." Sachs said.
"Unfortunately, hundreds of local broadcasters are not offering any HDTV programming, but instead standard-definition digital duplicates of their analog channels," he added.
The NAB was not happy with the NCTA’s report card on the progress cable has made in terms of making HDTV packages available, as well as the broadcast signals within those offerings.
Right now, 1,104 local broadcasters have made the transition to digital and HDTV, according to the NAB, yet cable is only carrying about 300 of them.
"No amount of NCTA spin can hide the fact that gatekeeper cable operators are denying consumers access to more than 800 DTV-broadcast channels," NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton said.