Cable's Share of Market Slips as Satellite Picks Up

From Bloomberg News

Comcast Corp. and other cable television companies' share of the U.S. pay-TV market slid last year as satellite rivals added customers more quickly, U.S. regulators said Tuesday in an annual report.

Satellite TV companies served 21.1 million homes as of June 2002, up 9.3% from a year earlier, the report said. Cable was in 68.8 million homes, up less than 1% compared with the earlier period. That's 76.5% of the market for subscription TV, down from 78% as of June 2001.

Cable's portion of the pay-TV market has fallen ever since the advent of DirecTV in 1995. Cable companies have said that erosion of market share should forestall ownership limits the government is contemplating. The Federal Communications Commission is rewriting rules after a court struck down a cap on the number of homes a single company could reach.

"Although competitive alternatives continue to develop, cable television still is the dominant technology for the delivery of video programming to consumers," the agency said.

Comcast, which bought AT&T; Corp.'s cable business last year, is the leader with 24% of the market, followed by AOL Time Warner Inc. with 14%, DirecTV with 12% and EchoStar Communications Corp. with 8.3%, the report said.

The number of homes receiving free television from broadcast stations grew faster than those subscribing to cable or satellite for the first time in at least five years. Pay services constituted 85.3% of TV homes as of June 2002, down from 86.4% in 2001, the report found.

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