NEW YORK: Cable television penetration in the US fell to a 17-year low of 61.3% in February, as competition from direct-broadcast satellite and telephone pay-TV rivals continues to chip away at the basic-subscriber counts of the cable distributors.

According to figures from the Television Bureau of Advertising, the number of cable subscribers dropped to 68.3 million last month, down from 70.6m in February 2005.

The same figures reveal combined satellite TV penetration from DirecTV and EchoStar Communications hit 25.2% in February, up from 21% this time last year.

Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau vp of research and insights Ira Sussman said he expected major cable operators to grow their basic-cable customer counts this year, and maintained that local media buyers were more interested in the amount of time viewers spend watching cable TV, which has increased, than in the number of cable homes.

Data sourced from; additional content by WARC staff