FCC Releases Text of Video Competition Report

Finds cable subs on the wane and online video gaining ground
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The FCC Monday issued the full video competition report, all 372 pages worth.

As reported last week, the 15th annual survey finds inroads by online and DBS providers and a general downward trending in cable subs.

Stemming from the 1992 Cable Act, the FCC was directed by Congress to provide an annual assessment on "the status of competition in the market for the delivery of video programming." The FCC has not always met that annual timetable, however.

The report generally does not draw conclusions on the competitiveness of the marketplace and this report followed that format, though it did point to what it said were the most significant trends of "the continuing development, and consumer usage, of time-shifted and location-shifted viewing of video programming, the expansion of digital and high-definition programming and the progress of the online video industry." 

A notable exception to that conclusion-free assessment came in 2007, during the tenure of FCC chairman Kevin Martin, when the 2006 annual report concluded that cable had reached the 70/70 threshold, which could have triggered new cable regs. That threshold was when cable systems with more than 36 channels passed 70% of households, with 70% of those homes passed subscribing to it. Cable has long ago topped the first of those marks, claiming about 85% penetration, but the industry had argued it was nowhere near the 70% figure. The FCC finally issued the 2006 report in 2009, concluding cable had not met the 70% sub threshold. It then had to play catch-up on the 2007-2009 reports.

The American Cable Association praised the FCC for acknowledging that cable subs were on the wane.

"ACA commends the Federal Communications Commission for acknowledging in its 15th Annual Video Competition Report that the number of cable systems operating nationwide is decreasing, and for including evidence that hundreds of small cable systems have ceased offering service in their communities," said the group in a statement. "Although the report indicates that the FCC has not collected data on the reasons why these cable systems have ceased operations, it acknowledges that small systems lack scale economies enjoyed by larger competitors."

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