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Cable Operators Boost HDTV Availablility

Washington — The National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) reported that 75 percent of television households in the United States can now receive high-definition television (HDTV) from their local cable operator.

According to revised NCTA data, 84 million U.S. homes are now passed by a cable system that offers a package of high-definition programming, reflecting nearly 125 percent growth since January 2003 when 37 million homes could receive HD service from a local cable system.

At least one cable system in 99 of the top 100 Designated Market Areas (DMAs) is offering a package of HD programming to consumers, according to an NCTA survey of its member companies that reflects activity through March 31. Additionally, 56 markets beyond the top 100 are also being served by a cable system offering HDTV, bringing the total number of DMAs in which at least one cable system is offering HDTV to 155 of the 210 DMAs nationwide.

The NCTA said cable operators now carry a total of 382 local digital broadcast stations, a more than fourfold increase since January 2003 when 92 local digital broadcast stations were being carried.

Since Dec. 2003, cable systems have added the digital signals of 78 local broadcast stations, the NCTA said.

In addition, 15 cable networks are now producing HD programming in genres that include movies, sports and general interest.

“The full-scale deployment of HD service and programming has been the most rapid rollout of any product launched by the cable industry. Cable companies are now offering packages that include a full mix of broadcast, basic and premium networks featuring HD content,” said Robert Sachs, NCTA president.

Since 1996, the cable industry has invested $85 billion to upgrade its infrastructure and launch advanced broadband services such as HDTV, video-on-demand, high-speed Internet service, and local telephone service, the NCTA said.