While the FCC’s proposed $1.3mln increase in annual regulatory fees isn’t earth-shattering, NCTA is taking issue-not so much with the rise, but with the fact DBS doesn’t have to pay nearly as much. A Tues filing was noteworthy in that it’s the 1st time NCTA has raised the issue of fee disparity. The cable industry paid about $46mln in fees in ’04, while DirecTV and EchoStar forked over some $2mln. Why the disparity? Cable operators pay fees on a per sub basis, while DBS providers pay a facility-based fee based on geostationary space stations ($114,625/station). The FCC wants to increase this year’s cable fee to 72 cents/sub from 70 cents/sub in ’04. "There are mid-sized cable operators serving a fraction of the customers served by DirecTV and EchoStar that pay annual regulatory fees close to or more than what these companies pay," NCTA said. Mediacom paid $1mln last year for 1.5mln subs; Insight paid $891K for 1.3mln subs. Cable regulatory fees have increased nearly 49% from ’00 to ’04, while fees for DBS from ’00-’03, but decreased in ’04. NCTA wants the FCC to apply a per sub fee to DBS, arguing that a facility-based fee no longer holds given how dramatically DBS has changed, how cable has been deregulated and how there is a solidly competitive video marketplace. Under current rules, DirecTV and EchoStar would pay about 8 cents/sub in fees this year vs 72 cents/sub for cable, NCTA estimates. "Incongruously, as DBS has gained [subs] on cable, the government has imposed a heavier and more discriminatory fee burden on cable systems," NCTA said.

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NBCU, Disney Upfronts Results

NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell also discussed this year’s upfronts during his investor conference appearance Monday, saying that his company’s upfront has officially been completed and it may have been the strongest in its history.

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