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News summary for 12/11/07

Tue, 12/11/2007 - 8:38am
CED staff

Notice of DTV transition still escapes half the viewing public
By Brian Santo

The news about the digital transition in February 2009 is getting out, but half of the TV-watching public is still unaware and needs to be educated about the event. Awareness among those most affected – those who depend entirely on over-the-air signals – is the lowest of all the groups, at 31 percent, according to a survey from CTAM Pulse (full report here).

CTAM is a member of the DTV Transition Coalition, the organization that is taking responsibility for educating the public about the transition.

The CTAM survey reveals that only half (48 percent) of U.S. households are aware of the digital TV transition. Awareness among customers of cable services breaks down this way: among broadband subs, it’s 45 percent; among digital cable service, it’s 40 percent; and among basic cable service, it’s 39 percent.

Though any TV connected to a pay-TV service will be unaffected by the digital transition, the CTAM survey suggests that it is still imperative to educate subscribers.

The majority of households that currently receive cable, satellite or any other TV service have all their TV sets connected to some type of TV service, but 25 percent – or 23.3 million homes – said they also have at least one or more “unconnected” sets in their homes. Two-fifths (40 percent) of households with an unconnected TV set said they use those sets to watch broadcast TV programs only.

Twenty-two percent use them to watch DVDs, and 16 percent use them for video games.

Forty-seven percent of all survey respondents said they do not know when the digital transition will occur, and 26 percent believe it will take place sometime other than 2009.

“In the months ahead, cable companies will reassure their customers that all connected analog sets will continue to display the new broadcast digital TV signals seamlessly. In addition, companies will be aggressively communicating with all consumers to alert them to the transition, help them understand what will happen in 2009, and [tell them] how they can benefit from this further transition to digital television technology,” said Char Beales, president and CEO of CTAM.

Consumers can learn more about how the transition affects them at a Web site established jointly by CTAM and the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA).

comScore: Charter’s high-speed Internet faster, more reliable than telcos’
By Traci Patterson

Charter Communications Inc. said that comScore Inc. has deemed Charter's high-speed Internet offerings as faster, and with more reliable speeds, than the combined Internet offerings provided by telcos in areas where Charter provides services.

Charter offers high-speed Internet tiers with speeds of up to 5 Mbps and 10 Mbps. In select markets, Charter offers speeds of up to 16 Mbps, and the MSO has plans to expand this offering to more markets next year.

"Speed and the reliability of that speed are top priorities of Internet users, and we are extremely proud to be offering the best possible experience for our customers," said Himesh Bhise, Charter's GM of high-speed Internet. "On average, Charter customers can download movies, music and pictures at nearly twice the speed of customers using DSL service from these telephone companies."

The faster claim is based on a comparison of Internet download speeds – averaged across all of AT&T/BellSouth’sQwest’s and Verizon’s broadband Internet offerings – by providers in areas serviced by Charter.

The reliable speed claim is based on a comparison of the difference between average observed broadband download speed versus AT&T/BellSouth’s, Qwest’s and Verizon’s advertised broadband download speed, and then weighted across all of a provider’s broadband Internet offerings in areas serviced by Charter.

Survey: Online viewers prefer professional videos over user-generated videos
By Mike Robuck

According to a recent survey, consumers who watch video on their computers, mobile devices or digital media players are watching more professionally produced TV programming instead of user-generated content.

ChoiceStream’s “2007 Survey of Viewer Trends in TV and Online Video” found that 65 percent of consumers using the above devices prefer professionally produced TV programming, which includes network and cable-produced shows, news and sports. This number exceeds the 39 percent of consumers watching user-generated video by 67 percent, and the difference is expected to increase over the next six months as linear TV viewers begin to shift their viewing behavior to other devices.

The survey also found that when searching on a computer, mobile device or media player, 62 percent of consumers said that it takes at least a few minutes to find something interesting to watch. Finding the right show to watch is similarly frustrating for consumers watching programming on their TV sets, with 72 percent of all TV viewers indicating that it takes at least a few minutes to find programming that piques their interest.

According to ChoiceStream, the difficulty in finding shows and movies to watch on the TV set “is clearly costing TV service providers lost revenue as 43 percent of consumers indicate that they would watch more video on-demand and Pay-Per-View if they could find more content of interest.” This number is up 19 percent from 2006.

“The survey shows that there is an inefficient video discovery process that over time will slow the pace of change in consumers’ viewing patterns,” said ChoiceStream’s Toffer Winslow.

Toffer continued: “Consumers, especially those in the younger demographic, have grown accustomed to watching TV programs, sports, news and video at their own convenience and do not want to spend time searching for meaningful content every time they turn on their TV, PC or mobile device. It’s imperative that companies and advertisers embrace this shift and implement personalization strategies that will put relevant TV programming and video content at the consumers’ fingertips wherever they choose to watch it.”

Among other findings, the survey found that 23 percent of DVR owners watch commercials in the recorded shows either “sometimes” or “always.” The reasons for watching advertisements varied: consumers found the commercials educational (36 percent); consumers found the commercials entertaining (34 percent); and consumers found it too hard to fast-forward (19 percent).

T. Rowe Price increases stake in Cablevision
By Mike Robuck

According to a document filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission yesterday, T. Rowe Price has increased its shares in Cablevision Systems’ stock.

Currently, T. Rowe Price owns about 24.5 million shares of Cablevision’s Class A Common stock, which is up from the 14.1 million shares it owned at the end of September.

Earlier this year, T. Rowe Price – along with other institutional holders in Cablevision’s stock, including Gamco Investors – opposed the Dolan family’s efforts to buy back the rest of the cable company’s common stock. On Oct. 24, the Dolans’ bid to take the company private was rejected during a shareholders meeting at Cablevision’s Bethpage, N.Y., headquarters.

AT&T ups U-verse target, quarterly dividend; announces share buyback
By Traci Patterson

On Tuesday, AT&T Inc. set a new long-term goal for its U-verse TV service, announced that its board of directors has approved a 12.7 percent increase in the company's quarterly dividend and announced a new 400 million share repurchase authorization.

The telco said its U-verse service will be available to 30 million customers by 2010. AT&T recently shifted its coverage target for the end of next year, from 18 million homes to 17 million. As of September, AT&T had 126,000 U-verse subscribers. The company expects to spend between $4.5 billion and $5 billion on U-verse through 2008.

The increase in AT&T’s quarterly dividend marks the largest annual increase in the company's history.

The company’s directors increased the quarterly dividend rate from $0.355 to $0.40 a share on a quarterly basis, and from $1.42 to $1.60 a share on an annual basis.

The new share repurchase authorization replaces the authorization announced in 2006, when AT&T repurchased more than $13 billion of its shares through Dec. 7, 2007. AT&T will buy back the 400 million shares, which represent about 7 percent of the company’s stock. AT&T expects to complete the repurchases available in the new authorization by the end of 2009.

"This latest dividend increase, combined with the new share repurchase authorization, reflects the strength of AT&T's operations, and our board's confidence in the future of our business, and our ability to continue to deliver strong results," said Randall Stephenson, AT&T’s chairman and CEO.

The dividend will be payable on Feb. 1 to common shareowners of record on Jan. 10. The timing and nature of repurchases are subject to market conditions and applicable securities laws.

Broadband Briefs for 12/11/07

* Zachem joins Comcast as regulatory affairs exec
By Mike Robuck

Comcast Corp. today announced that Kathryn A. Zachem will join Comcast as VP of regulatory affairs and Comcast Cable as SVP of regulatory affairs, effective Feb. 1. In this role, Zachem will oversee all of the company's regulatory efforts and will be based in Comcast's Washington, D.C., office. Prior to Comcast, Zachem was a partner in the law firm of Wilkinson Barker Knauer.

* JDSU intros DWDM channel checker
By Brian Santo

JDSU announced what it claims is the industry's smallest and lightest channel checker for DWDM networks. The OCC-56 Smart Optical Channel Checker is a selective power meter for DWDM applications that can be used in lieu of optical spectrum analyzers (OSAs).

The OCC-56 is available in C-band or L-band models. It is specifically designed for DWDM system installation and upgrades, channel routing verification in ROADM networks and troubleshooting DWDM systems.

* Brazilian telco serves IPTV with UTStarcom system
By Brian Santo

UTStarcom will supply its RollingStream end-to-end IPTV solution to Brasil Telecom, marking UTStarcom’s first deployment in Latin America and the operator’s first foray into video. Brasil Telecom has begun TV service in Brasilia and plans to expand its IPTV footprint to cover other cities in the country.

UTStarcom said RollingStream serves 600,000 subs globally. The company has commercial IPTV deployments in China with China Netcom and China Telecom; with Bharti Airtel and MTNL/Aksh in India; and with Softbank in Japan.

* Ensequence names Graham as CFO
By Mike Robuck

Ensequence said that Wayne Graham has joined the company as CFO. Graham was most recently the CFO of Local Insight Media 9, the fifth-largest yellow pages publisher in the U.S.

* Gemstar-TV Guide’s EVP of distribution resigns
By Traci Patterson

Gemstar-TV Guide International Inc.’s Tonia O’Connor has resigned from her position as EVP of distribution, effective Dec. 31. O’Connor leaves Gemstar-TV Guide to join Univision, where on Jan. 2 she will become EVP of distribution, sales and marketing. The senior members of O’Connor’s distribution team will report directly to Gemstar-TV Guide’s CEO Rich Battista.

* VoIP Inc. appoints co-CTOs
By Traci Patterson

VoIP Inc. has appointed Arthur L. McCabe and Kevin Behanna as co-CTOs. McCabe has been the director of engineering and software development at VoIP since 2003.

Behanna was previously the director of operations for the company.

* Accenture completes Corliant purchase
By Brian Santo

Accenture has completed its acquisition of Corliant, a privately-held technology consulting firm that helps clients deploy and support IP networks, largely based on Cisco equipment.

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