Canuck cablers feel chill in urban areas

Satellite companies continue to operate in red

TORONTO — For the first time in the industry’s history, Canadian cable companies have lost market share in urban areas, according to a report from government agency Statistics Canada. Meanwhile, direct-to-home satellite TV is continuing to gain ground.

Sat operators had 1.6 million subs, about 17% of the subscription TV market as of Aug. 31, 2001, up significantly from 2000’s 11%.

Cable subscriptions fell in 16 of Canada’s 25 largest urban areas. In small- and medium-size communities, the slippage was even greater, down 6.3% to 848,000 and 3.4% to 1.3 million, respectively.

Cablers had 7.9 million subscribers in total, down 1.4% from the previous year, and the industry’s profit margin is continuing to decline; 16.1% (before interest and taxes) compared with 19.5% in ’00 and 21.7% in ’99.

Running at a loss

In contrast, satellite companies, although their losses are declining, continue to operate in the red.

Be it wireless or through their cabler, more than 25% of the 9.5 million Canadian households subscribing to programming services were receiving them in the digital as opposed to analog mode, up from 15% in 2000.

Digital cable gained significant ground in 2001, with 812,000 subs, more than double the year previous.

The figures were collected last year when close to 50 digital TV channels were about to bow, meaning the change to digital likely will continue.

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