Direct-broadcast satellite is enjoying its most rapid subscribership gains in the urban and suburban areas once dominated by cable operators.
Between 2001 and 2004, DBS penetration in urban areas grew 50% and now stands at 13% of households, according to a report issued by the Government Accounting Office Thursday.
The report was requested by Sens. Mike DeWine and Herb Kohl, the chairman and ranking Democrat, respectively, on the Senate Judiciary committee.
The lawmakers asked GAO to report on the factors that influence DBS and cable adoption across the country.
In suburban areas, satellite subscribership grew 32% in those areas to now stand at 18% of households. By contrast, satellite TV penetration in rural areas grew 15%.
Despite the slower growth, DBS penetration is still highest in rural communities and now stands at 29% of households.
DBS first caught on in rural areas because they typically have less access to cable service. In total subscriber numbers, DBS has grown from 15.5 million households in July 2001 to 21.3 million.
Cable has been able to blunt DBS inroads by offering highspeed Internet, telephone and other advance services that complement the traditional TV programming business.
In those markets, DBS penetration was 20 percentage points less than than in areas where cable was not offering advanced services.