Cable gains digital, broadband subs

NCTA holds annual year-end wrap-up

NEW YORK – In its annual year-end wrap-up, the National Cable & Telecommunications Assn. stressed cable TV’s gains in digital subscribers and the volume of high-speed Internet modems.

Speaking at a press luncheon in Washington, D.C., on Monday, Robert Sachs cq, president and CEO of the NCTA, said about 25 million cable customers subscribe to digital TV, a jump of 13% over the 2003 total, and 20 million now get high-speed access to the Internet, 24% more than last year.

Sachs said cable TV now regularly draws more viewers than the seven broadcast networks, citing the 2003-04 season ended last spring, when cable reached a record 49.9 share of audience, beating broadcast in primetime by 2.7 share points.

High definition is also beginning to make its presence felt, Sachs said, with 17 cable nets running at least some of their programming in the HD format.

He said that when Janet Jackson’s wardrobe engineered a malfunction at halftime of the last Super Bowl, the cable industry offered free blocking technology to all parents to keep their children away from unwanted networks.

The cable industry appears to have beaten back a move by pressure groups to change the way people pay for cable nets. The groups wanted each basic-cable network to charge a specific monthly price, like pay nets HBO and Showtime, instead of being packaged together for one umbrella price.

But Sachs said recently released survey by the Federal Communications Commission reported that a move to a la carte pricing “would lead to less choice for subscribers and higher monthly bills.” A report a year ago by the General Accounting Office reached the same conclusions, he said.

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