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China Pay-TV Subs Now Double of the U.S.

According to the latest market study by In-Stat, 2007 was a year of contrasts for the global cable TV industry, particularly on the subscriber side.

On the positive side of the ledger, total worldwide cable TV subscriber households now number 408 million -- an increase of 10 percent over the total from last January.

At the same time, however, the number of U.S. cable TV households decreased again during 2007. Currently, there are just under 68 million cable TV households in the U.S., a decrease of approximately 500,000 during the past year.

So why the contrast between the global market and the U.S. market? In-Stat says two key points account for the difference -- booming demand and investment in emerging markets, and increasing competition in more established markets.

In contrast, I believe that the primary reason for the U.S. decline isn't competition, it's actually the ongoing increases in cable TV subscription fees, and the growth of alternative forms of entertainment available via the internet.

In emerging markets such as China and India, consumers are signing up in record numbers for low-cost multichannel services, and cable TV operators have responded by investing to expand their network capacity and reach.

In more established markets like North America and Western Europe, satellite TV services and telco TV services continue to attract some new pay-TV subscribers, in addition to a growing contingent of former cable TV households.

Other highlights from the In-Stat market study include:

- Demand for digital cable video service continues to increase. Ninety-one million worldwide cable TV households are now digital video subscribers, an increase of 41 percent over the past year.

- The majority of these new subscribers came from China, where total digital cable households have risen by 14 million over the past year.

- The top three countries for cable TV subscribers are China, with 140 million subscribers, the United States, with 68 million subscribers, and India, with 62 million subscribers. These three countries now account for two-thirds of all worldwide cable TV subscribers.

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