FCC Concludes 70/70 Threshold Not Met

Cable competition report finds 68% of multichannel video households subscribe to cable, with figure trending "slightly" downward"
Publish date:

Posted at 11:33 AM ET, Jan. 19, 2009

The FCC finally released its 2006 cable competition report late Friday, and it turns out cable did not meet the 70/70 threshold for re-regulation after all.

According to the report, 68% of multichannel video households subscribe to cable, with the figure trending "slightly" downward, according to the FCC. That is primarily thanks to satellite TV, with a little help from the telcos.

Satellite operators as of 2006 claimed 29.2% of multichannel video subs.

The video competition report had initially concluded that cable had met the 70/70 benchmark, which is cable systems with more than 36 channels passing 70% of households, with 70% of those subscribing to it. Cable has long since topped the first of those, claiming about 85% penetration, but the industry has argued it is nowhere near the 70% figure, with that number declining thanks to competitors.

The FCC had to go back to the drawing board after its reliance on a single data source drew widespread criticism. So, a report that was adopted Nov. 27, 2008, was not released until Jan. 16, 2009.

The FCC also put out a call for info on the next competition report, with Republican Commissioner Robert McDowell saying there should be no repeat of the narrow methodological approach that delayed and compromised the initial finding. "I hope that our experience with this year's 2006 Video Competition Report, with its radical departure in methodology from previous reports, will be an anomaly in Commission history," he said in a statement.

There was even a statement from a commissioner who isn't even a commissioner anymore. Deborah Taylor Tate, who exited two weeks ago because her term had expired, said in a statement that she "look[ed] forward to working with the Chairman and my colleagues to resolve the questions that have been raised regarding the underlying data in this Report in order to provide our 2007 Report in a more timely, thorough manner."

The Tate statement had to be footnoted to point out it had been prepared when she was still around.

With that report coming out closer to 2010 than 2007, it will, by default, be a blurry snapshot of an industry moving and changing at warp speed.