The Television Bureau of Advertising yesterday released its latest Nielsen data crunch, which concluded that satellite TV has expanded to 29.2% pay TV market share (from 9.5% in Feb. 2000) while cable TV fell to 71% (from a high of 89% pay TV market share in Feb. 2000).

According to the TVB, in the past year cable’s subscriber base fell by 2.3 million subs to 68.3 million and penetration fell from 64.1% to 61.3% of TV households, its lowest since Feb. 1990—while satellite TV (with 29 million subscribers) and ADS both grew 4.2% over the same period, to 25.2% and 25.8%, respectively.

The analysis was swiftly rejected by the cable industry, particularly TVB’s claim that U.S. wired cable penetration has fallen to a 17-year low.

"This is not spin—more like desperation," said NCTA spokesman Brian Dietz, who joined CAB in scoffing at TVB’s analysis of Nielsen statistics. "I think they skipped the paragraph that highlights how cable ratings have dominated broadcasting in recent years."

"Advertisers who buy cable locally need to know that local wired cable systems’ ability to deliver commercials continues to erode," said Susan Cuccinello, TVB’s SVP of research, in the release.  

"It’s bunk when they put it out like this," countered CAB spokesman Chris Jones. "This is the end of a tail positioned in an advantageous way."

The data is a reflection of a long-term change in Nielsen’s household measurement, said CAB’s SVP of research, Ira Sussman. Nielsen last year finished rolling out active passive meters in areas without prior measurement solutions, he said, and 40% of the new homes subscribe to satellite. That skews cable’s numbers downward.

"The bottom line is we’re not happy about the [release’s] headline. Internal data shows wired cable is actually beginning to grow again," said Sussman of the TVB’s press release yesterday titled: "Over a Quarter of U.S. TV Homes Now Satellite Subscribers."

Separately, Nielsen yesterday released new estimates that the average U.S. home now has 104.2 TV channels; the total U.S. TV universe is 111.4 million homes; TV sets outnumber people (2.8 to 2.5 per HH); the number of homes with cable decreased from 68% in 2005 to 64% in 2006, while digital cable now accounts for 28% of the TV universe vs. 23% for satellite or specialized antenna systems.

Nielsen Monitor-Plus also reported that U.S. ad spending rose 4.6% in 2006 vs. 2005 while national cable TV spending increased 1.8% in that time period [Release].

TNS Media Intelligence last week estimated 2006 vs. ’05 overall ad spending growth at 4.1% and cable network spending up 3.4%.

(With reporting from CableFAX Daily)

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