SBCA Tallies 18.3 Million Satellite Homes

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Despite a looming mega merger between DBS suppliers, the home satellite TV industry continued to register "dramatic growth" in 2001, according to subscriber figures compiled by the Satellite Broadcasting and Communications Association (SBCA).

The organization, which issued its statement amid a week of federal opinion gathering on the proposed merger between EchoStar and Hughes Electronics (DirecTV), said combined DBS and C-band subscribers in 2001 totaled 18.3 million households, which equates to over 48.5 million viewers.

DirecTV and DISH Network combined to gain 2.91 million net new subscribers, the SBCA reported.

DirecTV activated 1,345,000 net new customers in 2001, bringing its cumulative subscriber base to 10.7 million. EchoStar's DISH Network added 1,570,000 net new customers in 2001, bringing their total subscriber base to 6.83 million. Maintained C-Band households accounted for the remaining 842,483 households.

Based on these figures, the SBCA said the DBS industry added an average of nearly 8,000 net new subscribers each day in 2001.

"The SBCA is very pleased by the continued growth in the number of DBS subscribers," said SBCA President Andy Wright. "The phenomenal growth of DBS is good news for the entire satellite community, platform providers, programmers, equipment manufacturers, distributors and retailers. It is also a testament to the satellite television industry's continuing commitment to offering consumers better products and better service."

In the fourth quarter of 2001, DirecTV gained 405,000 net new subscribers; DISH Network gained approximately 400,000; and C-band subscribers declined by approximately 51,400.

The SBCA added that despite satellite television's continued growth, the FCC competition study also shows that cable maintains dominant market power in the multi-channel video marketplace with over 78 percent of the market, compared to DBS' 18.2 percent.

The association points out that since the passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, "cable rates have increased 35.7 percent, far exceeding the rate of inflation that the consumer price index pegged at only 14.5 percent during that same period."

"While satellite continues to successfully convert customers to its enhanced quality, choice and superior customer service, cable's market power makes it far too early to call the current marketplace truly competitive," Wright concluded.

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