US Viewers Opt for Multichannel TV Via Cable, Satellite

13 July 2005

An interesting and possibly significant trend has emerged in Americans' TV viewing preferences.

Until now, the growth in satellite subscribers has inevitably been at the expense of cable operators. But in this year's first quarter that trend vaporized, with cable subscriber levels remaining relatively stable while satellite growth soared.

During Q1, satellite collected an additional 830,000 customers; and while cable numbers moved south to the tune of 21,000, the net loss amounted to barely 2.5 percent.

Comments Sanford Bernstein analyst Craig Moffett: "This is a surprising or even shocking result given the maturity of the market." It suggests, he says, an annualised subscriber expansion rate of 3.6 percent - the most rapid growth in the past five years.

The only cable company to record a significant subscriber loss during the period was market leader Comcast, with 26,000 net losses.

According to analysts, this could be attributed - in part at least - to the fact Comcast's telephony services rollout lags well behind rivals such as Time Warner.

Data sourced from Financial Times Online; additional content by WARC staff