Local TV Pleased by ADS Growth

Direct-broadcast-satellite penetration levels continue to climb and that's making local broadcasters absolutely giddy.

Nielsen Media Research recently issued data for November showing that wired cable penetration hit a six-year low, falling below 70%.

The main reason for that was in-roads made by what Nielsen calls alternate delivery systems (ADS), primarily DBS service, that distribute many of the same programming services that cable delivers—often at a less expensive rate.

For broadcasters, the issue is important as the battle with cable operators for local ad dollars steadily intensifies.

The key point, as they see it, is that local ads on national program services like ESPN or A&E are at a disadvantage because they aren't seen by viewers getting such networks through DBS or any other alternate delivery service.

"Advertisers who buy cable locally need to know that local wired cable systems' ability to deliver commercials continues to erode," said Susan Cuccinello, senior vice president of research for the Television Bureau of Advertising.

Later this year, Nielsen plans to start publishing cable and broadcast ratings simultaneously, with the cable numbers in their component parts, with wired cable and ADS ratings broken out separately.

According to Nielsen's National Television Index data for November, national ADS penetration reached 16.5%, up almost 14% from the previous November.

Over the same period, wire cable penetration fell from 70.5% to 69.1%. The last time wired cable was that low was October 1996.