January , 07 , 2003

New Digital TV Service is Now Available to One-Third of U.S. TV Households


Washington, D.C. – As cable industry executives head to Las Vegas this week for the 2003 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), cable companies report having launched high definition television service (HDTV) on cable systems serving approximately one-third of U.S. television households in more than 90 markets across the United States.

HDTV service now is being provided by at least one cable operator in 62 of the top 100 designated market areas (DMAs), according to the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA). The total number of all DMAs with HDTV carriage by one or more cable systems – including markets beyond the top 100 DMAs – is 91. The total number of homes passed by cable systems providing HDTV channel packages is approximately 37 million, or one in three TV households in the U.S., NCTA said.

The mix of high definition (HD) cable and broadcast channels varies from market to market. Major portions of primetime and daytime schedules on HBO and Showtime now are being transmitted in HD. In addition, Discovery HD Theater, launched last summer, is a 24-hour HD network featuring all categories of Discovery’s most popular programming. ESPN meanwhile has announced plans to launch an all-HD sports channel in April 2003. Broadcast networks – including CBS, ABC, NBC, and PBS – are creating HD product as well, transmitting many of their primetime programs, special sports events, and some late night programs in HD.

“HDTV service is very important to cable’s future. Cable operators and programmers are striving to drive consumer demand for HDTV by creating more programming and making HDTV available to more TV households,” said Robert Sachs, President and CEO, NCTA. “Ninety markets is just the beginning. HDTV will be deployed in additional markets, large and small.”

Cable operators are providing HDTV in a variety of markets. Service has been launched in portions of major metropolitan areas including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Phoenix, Miami, San Diego, Detroit, and Baltimore-Washington; midsize markets such as Austin, Columbus, Portland (ME), Raleigh-Durham, Las Vegas, Green Bay, and Omaha; and smaller or rural markets including Pittsfield (MA), Batavia (NY), Youngstown (OH), Fargo (ND), Twin Falls (ID), Palm Desert (CA), Waco (TX), and Sherman (TX).

“Coupled with last month’s agreement with consumer electronics manufacturers to spur the manufacture and sale of digital TV sets capable of receiving high definition signals from cable systems without digital set-top boxes, the cable industry is working on multiple fronts to bring HDTV and other new digital services to consumers,” Sachs said.

Cable executives will extend their relationships with consumer electronics companies later this week when a number of cable chief executives travel to CES in Las Vegas to tour the exhibit floor and hold individual meetings with their consumer electronics counterparts.

The visit is sponsored by CableLabs, the cable industry’s research and development consortium. The group of cable operator CEOs that are attending CES includes:

  • Brian Roberts, President of Comcast Corporation;
  • Glenn Britt, Chairman and CEO, Time Warner Cable;
  • Carl Vogel, President and CEO, Charter Communications;
  • Jim Robbins, President and CEO, Cox Communications, Inc.;
  • Tom Rutledge, President, Cable and Communications, Cablevision Systems Corp.;
  • Bob Miron, President, Advance/Newhouse Communications;
  • Rocco Commisso, Chairman and CEO, Mediacom Communications Corp.;
  • Michael Willner, CEO and Vice Chairman, Insight Communications Company; and
  • Scott Chambers, President, Chambers Communications Corp.

The group will be accompanied by Richard Green, President and CEO, CableLabs, and NCTA’s Robert Sachs.

NCTA is the principal trade association of the cable television industry in the United States. NCTA represents cable operators serving more than 90 percent of the nation's cable television households and more than 200 cable program networks, as well as equipment suppliers and providers of other services to the cable industry.