Om Malik’s video site, NewTeeVee, has a new online video series called Cord Cutters – news and tips for people who are learning to live without cable or satellite – off air and internet TV only. You can find it at the link above or follow it on Twitter at @cordcutters or @newteevee. Cable and satellite subs are down just a bit for the first time so maybe this trend is gaining some weight. --Dennis
In spite of agreeing in the past that over the air TV is doomed, Babbage describes how cable has caused him to erect an antenna and “cut the cord.” He writes:
… As part of its broadband plan this year, the FCC sponsored a study that revealed when poorer Americans made choices about information services, they would rather keep their mobile phone connection than an internet connection. Cable television runs a distant third. …
So here's what I don't know. Am I, with my free broadcast television, enjoying a subsidy that won't be sustainable in the future? Television stations may yet decide to auction off their licences to deal with the (very real) spectrum crunch. The antenna atop my house would then be just as large, but much, much sillier. Or is there a way to program television channels better? What if channels not only accepted, but embraced digital video recorders? What if a broadcast channel saw itself not as a stream to be tuned in to, but as a stream to be recorded? …
… Is the title of a November Nicholas Carr article in New York Times Magazine occasioned by his discovery that a new Blu-ray DVD player bought was internet-enabled. He writes:
… Ever since, and much to my surprise, I’ve been using the device more to transmit Internet content than to play discs. I stream TV shows and movies from Netflix, music from Pandora and videos from YouTube. Beyond my existing $11-a-month Netflix subscription, I haven’t forked out a penny for any of this programming. It comes flowing out of the Web, whenever I summon it, free. …
My Blu-ray player isn’t internet-enabled, but before Christmas, I bought a Roku box. Carr’s article inspired me to install it tonight. Actually, setup was pretty easy – the “hexy” password I use notwithstanding. The only annoyance was having to go to my computer to enter various access codes for the box and for various content “channels.” But now I can stream directly from Amazon and my Netflix account, view Flickr and Facebook photos, listen to Pandora, and view numerous free content sources like my fave, twit.tv. Really fast streaming access and decent video quality. I might actually use this toy. --Dennis
I posted Sunday about the Wilmington, NC market switch from analog to digital TV transition, linking to a story on NPR by WHQR's Catherine Welch. Catherine had a follow-up story on NPR's Morning Edition yesterday. The link includes text and audio for the story plus additional information on the transition. Nice job covering this.
[By the way, if you're reading this fairly soon after this is posted, you'll see that NPR's open API already snagged this story and automatically posted it to the column of stories on the left of this blog. The stories are licensed for noncommercial use, so if you're site qualifies, check it out.]
Also see John Dunbar's story for the Associated Press, Old antennas cause complaints in digital TV test. Link: AP.
Big cable thinks it's going to gain subscribers, and they're probably right. See Deborah Yao's report, also for the AP, Comcast, Time Warner Cable sees digital TV gains. Link: AP. --Dennis
The FCC is out with its annual report on video competition (news release with thanks to Bert Manfredi on the OpenDTV list). I'll link to the full report when it's posted. --Dennis
Here are specific findings from the news release:
The number of TV households and the number of MVPD subscribers increased since the FCC released its last report. As of June 2006, there were 110.2 million TV households, compared to 109.6 million in June 2005. Of that number, approximately 95.8 million TV households subscribe to an MVPD service, versus 94.2 million as of June 2005.
Section 612(g) of the Act states that: (1) “at such time as cable systems with 36 or more activated channels are available to 70 percent of households within the United States” and (2) “are subscribed to by 70 percent of the households to which such systems are available, the Commission may promulgate any additional rules necessary to provide diversity of information sources.” According to Warren Communications News, a source on which we have traditionally relied, 71.4 percent of households passed by cable systems offering 36 or more channels subscribe to these systems. However, other data sources do not demonstrate that the second prong has been met. As a result, we conclude that the only way to accurately measure the 70/70 test is to collect data directly from the cable industry. Therefore, the Commission requires each cable operator to submit the following information for 2006 within 60 days under penalty of perjury: 1) the total number of homes the cable operator currently passes; 2) the total number of homes the cable operator currently passes with 36 or more activated channels; 3) the total number of subscribers; and 4) the total number of subscribers with 36 or more activated channels.
Cable continues to serve the largest percentage of MVPD subscribers. The Report finds that as of June 2006, approximately 68.2 percent of MVPD subscribers received video programming from a franchised cable operator.
DBS subscribers comprise the second largest group of MVPD households, representing 29 percent of total MVPD subscribers as of June 2006. DBS operators continue to add local-into-local broadcast television service. In approximately 175 of the 210 television markets, at least one DBS provider offers the signals of local broadcast stations.
The number of MVPD subscribers choosing all other delivery technologies represented 2.6 percent of all subscribers in June 2006.
The Nielsen Company estimated that, as of January 2007, 15.5 million households, or about 14 percent of all television households rely on over-the air television broadcasts for video programming. In addition, many households that subscribe to an MVPD also rely on over-the-air signals to receive broadcast programming on some of their television sets.
From June 30, 2005 to June 30, 2006, the number of commercial and noncommercial television stations rose from 1,747 to 1,753. As of January 2007, approximately 1,600 stations nationwide were on the air with DTV operations, including all 119 stations affiliated with the top-four network affiliates in the top 30 television markets.
Incumbent local exchange carriers also are providing video service. At the end of 2006, Verizon reported that it offered video programming via FiOS TV to more than 2.4 million households in 200 cities in 10 states and served 207,000 subscribers. At the end of 2006, AT&T served approximately 11 cities through U-verse TV. In addition, Qwest has taken steps to provide IPTV service in its service area.
As of June 2006, Broadband Service Providers (“BSPs”) served approximately 1.4 million subscribers, representing 1.5 percent of all MVPD households.
Electric and gas utilities also provide MVPD and other services on a limited basis. The American Public Power Association, which represents more than 20,000 not-for-profit community and state-owned electric utilities, reports that the average subscriber penetration rate for its members offering video service was 50 percent of the homes passed by utility video services, and that 40 percent of these subscribers purchase a combination of video and high-speed Internet access service.
The number of subscribers to private cable operator systems, also known as satellite master antenna systems, has declined to 900,000 subscribers as of 2006, a decrease of ten percent from last year’s one million subscribers.
The number of wireless cable subscribers has declined steadily from a peak of 1.2 million in 1996 to approximately 100,000 as of June 2006, unchanged from a year earlier.
In recent years, major commercial mobile radio service and other wireless providers have begun offering services that allow subscribers to access video programming through handheld devices, such as mobile telephones.
The amount of web-based video provided over the Internet continues to increase significantly each year. In July 2006, 107 million Americans, three out of every five Internet users, viewed video online. In July 2006, about 60 percent of U.S. Internet users downloaded videos. More than 7 billion videos were downloaded that month.
Between July 2005 and June 2006, a total of 28 MVPD transactions were announced. Together these transactions were valued at approximately $5.3 billion and affected approximately 1.8 million subscribers.
In 2006 we identified 565 satellite-delivered national programming networks, an increase of 34 networks over the 2005 total of 531 networks. Of the 565 networks, 84 (14.9 percent) were vertically integrated, or affiliated, with at least one cable operator. Five of the top seven cable operators own, in whole or in part, all of the networks that are affiliated with any cable operator.
In 2006, we identified 101 regional networks, an increase of six over those identified in 2005. These networks provide programming of local or regional interest and are distributed to subscribers of one or more MVPDs in an area. Of these, 57 networks, or 56.4 percent, were vertically integrated with at least one multi-system cable operator (“MSO”). There are 43 regional sports networks, representing 42.6 percent of all regional networks, as compared to the 37 we reported last year. Of the 43 regional sports networks, 19, or 44.2 percent, are vertically integrated with a cable MSO.
The sale of DTV consumer electronics continues to accelerate. The Consumer Electronics Association (“CEA”) estimates that, in 2006, digital televisions (“DTVs”) will have outsold analog televisions by 66 percent.
The development and deployment of CableCARDs continued in 2006. CableCARDs permit the reception of secured digital cable services without the addition of a set-top box. As of December 22, 2006, more than 216,000 CableCARDs had been deployed by cable operators, up from 90,000 the previous year.
The Report also surveyed developments in foreign markets. MVPDs in a number of countries provide programming on an a la carte basis or in mixed bundles, themed tiers, and subscriber-selected tiers. For example, in Hong Kong, consumers receive a free basic package and also can subscribe to more programming for an additional charge per channel. In Canada, the largest cable operators offer a la carte services. In the United Kingdom, consumers may select additional programming services they want, either on a subscription or pay-as-you-go basis, without first purchasing a monthly basic-tier package. In India, as of January 1, 2007, consumers in certain cities can subscribe to programming on a per channel basis.
Michael Harris, Chief Analyst for Cable Digital News, writes for those in the cable industry who don't like the FCC's recent ruling on digital must carry:
... Once again proving that the broadcast industry has the FCC in its
back pocket, the commission ruled that cable operators will need to
carry local broadcast TV signals in both analog and digital formats
starting in 2009. ¶ Adding insult to injury, MSOs must carry broadcasters'
high-definition signals, too. In other words, cable operators are
required to transmit the same TV programming in three formats. Now, that's a triple play! And a tremendous waste of privately owned cable spectrum. ...
... After an 11-hour delay to the start of its monthly meeting, the FCC voted 5-0
at about 10 p.m. to require cable systems to distribute local TV stations that
demand carriage in both analog and digital formats for a three-year period
starting Feb. 18, 2009. That’s the day after all 1,756 full-power TV stations
must turn off their analog signals and rely exclusively on their digital feeds.
Cable systems that are all-digital are exempt from the FCC’s dual carriage
mandate. ¶ [Chairman] Martin’s [original] plan called for dual must carry without the 2012 sunset, which the
FCC did reserve the right to extend. Lobbying pressure from the National Cable
& Telecommunications Association forced Martin to yield not only on
perpetual dual carriage but also on a second priority: Requiring cable systems
to transmit “all content bits” in a digital TV signal, thereby eliminating the
use of signal compression and statistical multiplexing that husband