Global Industry Overview: Cable and Other Pay-Television Services

Participants in the global subscription television industry deliver live and recorded programming, most often via cable lines or satellite transmission, to businesses and consumers. Carriers may provide closed circuit television services, direct-broadcast satellite (DBS) or direct-to-home (DTH) satellite services, multi-channel multipoint distribution systems (MMDS) services, and satellite master antenna systems (SMATV) services. Certain firms in the industry also participate heavily in other telecommunications services; see also Telecommunications Services later in this chapter for more detailed treatment of those activities. Television networks are not included in this discussion.

Industry Snapshot

Although the industry's two main segments, cable and satellite, have coexisted for some time, some industry observers foretell the ultimate ascendance of one over the other. Predicting which one might prevail in this struggle depends on the observer: cable companies claim their broadband digital format far exceeds the interactive abilities of satellite, yet satellite proponents have a much easier time implementing mass-audience systems and claim to offer impressive interactive capabilities in their own right. To date, cable is winning the battle in terms of subscriber counts, and cable systems' ongoing technology investments is equipping them to quickly deploy digital services on a large scale in most places. Even Microsoft's Bill Gates has been hedging his bets: while pumping billions into cable, Microsoft also has sizable interests in low-orbit satellite systems that promise to extend the satellite medium into all corners of the global telecommunications field.