Friday, August 7, 2009

Cable vs. Telco vs Satellite - who's growing?

Growth is measured inside cable in a number of ways. The first is obviously the number of cable subscribers, but inside that subscriber number is also growth of which subscribers upgrade to the more expensive services - digital cable, digital tiers, premium channels, and the growth of transactional services like movie and event rentals. But the business is more than just television, growth is measured across other businesses like broadband and phone. It can be a very competitive business.

With the emergence of the telephone companies, Verizon and AT&T into the mix, it might be easy to forget that cable's first competition was the satellite companies. Well Primestar and others might be gone, but Direct TV and Dish still remain and they appear to be doing quite well. "DirecTV continued to outpace the competition and analysts' estimates in the second quarter, growing revenue by 9% and adding 224,000 net new subscribers, a 74% increase over the prior year." Cable is seeing growth inside its businesses, but basic may be another story, Direct TV's "cable competition continued to lose basic customers in the period -- Time Warner Cable shed 57,000 customers in the quarter and Comcast lost 214,000 basic subscribers -- DirecTV managed its second straight quarter of growth. The satellite giant gained about 460,000 net new subscribers in the first quarter." And so the fight for customers and the marketing to win back those that have left will most likely start to ramp up even more than before. You can't keep growing by selling more services to your existing customers enough to offset the loss of total customers to your store in the first place. There is real competition in the cable marketplace.

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