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Satellite TV Destined for Doom?

19 февраля 2007
With AT T recently reiterating its intentions on sticking with IPTV for video, potential for the telco giant to continue pushing its partnership with DISH Network seems highly diminished. Add to that Liberty Media's asset swap for DIRECTV entering an arduous and lengthy midpoint in Washington that could last for several months or more. What's left is a satellite TV sector limping through slower (and slowing still) subscriber growth rates and surviving an increasingly competitive market.

Industry analysts are saying what will matter during the next handful of quarterly reports for the satellite TV providers is operating results - those likely to continue reflecting the slowing of new subscriber additions. As subscriber growth had already begun to wane, the entire pay-TV segment is now losing a key propellant as the housing market constricts as well.

According to Bernstein Research's Craig Moffett, if current trends remain, "the drop in housing completes will shave 650,000 homes from pay-TV industry growth in 2007." With DBS taking about 30 percent of gross additions, the analyst said perhaps 200,000 fewer new satellite subscribers - or about 12 percent of 2006's estimated DBS net adds of 1.72 million - could be expected.

If a stalling housing market isn't bad enough for the DBS crowd, Moffett said the cable industry's triple-play bundle has sharply improved the wireline provider's competitiveness - a reversal of what had been a years-long consumer price/value advantage for satellite. Data from the satellite companies show that subscriber growth in the third quarter was the slowest on record for both DIRECTV and DISH.

"As single product service providers (video only), revenue growth comes from just two sources; subscriber growth and ARPU growth," the analyst said. "And while ARPU growth has remained strong, it too is likely to decelerate slightly over the next year, in the wake of markedly smaller price increases this year."


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