NCTA Says 95M Broadband Homes Served

The cable industry’s $85 billion investment since 1996 has produced a buffet of advanced digital services that can be purchased by 95 million U.S. households, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association said in a midyear report released last Tuesday.

Passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 unleashed a capital spending torrent by cable companies, which upgraded their facilities with fiber to handle an assortment of digital products. Cable wires pass about 94% of U.S. households.

As of March 31, the NCTA reported cable served 73.7 million basic, 22.9 million DTV, 17.3 million data and 2.7 million local phone subscribers.

Facing aggressive HDTV competition from direct-broadcast satellite providers, cable companies today offer HDTV packages to 84 million households, up 125% since January 2003, the NCTA said.

The NCTA data was derived from reports by Kagan Research, Kagan Media Money, A.C. Nielsen Media Research and Warren Communications News Inc. NCTA said cable-industry revenue for 2003 was $51.3 billion, but it did not break out revenue totals by service category. The report said cable had 51.9 million premium units in 2003.

The NCTA also used the report to mark its commitment to consumer education and programs designed to allow parents to block, without charge, programming they deem inappropriate for children.

The trade group also reiterated its opposition to government mandates that cable operators offer ad-supported cable networks on an a la carte basis.

Cable companies face strong competition from DBS rivals DirecTV Inc. and EchoStar Communications Inc., and a smattering of terrestrial pay-TV companies. “As a result of this competition, more than 25 million consumers (more than one out of four subscribers) now obtain multichannel video programming from a company other than their local cable operator,” the NCTA said.