Satellite and cable services vie for market share

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(Host) A satellite television company has gone on the offensive in Vermont in an effort to woo television viewers away from cable. As VPR’s Steve Zind reports, the stakes are high in a state where more than 80% of the households receive television through satellite or cable.

(Zind) The newest recruit in the battle between cable and satellite television is a pig. Using the slogan “Stop Feeding the Pig,” Dish Network has launched an advertising blitz aimed at convincing cable customers to switch to satellite television. In one commercial a ravenous pig wearing a sweater that says cable trundles around a house breaking into piggy banks and stealing jewelry while a helpless family looks on. The commercials quote figures from a government study showing cable rates nationally have gone up 40% since 1997.

Vermont is one of a number of markets Dish Network has targeted in the national campaign. Gregg Stucker is with Colorado-based EchoStar, which owns Dish Network.

(Stucker) “Burlington and the Vermont area are very attractive to Dish Network.”

(Zind) Stucker says 30% of Vermont’s households pluck their television program from outer space with the help of a satellite dish – that’s the highest percentage of any state in the country. He says that number has increased by about 6% in the past year. Apparently some of that growth is coming at the expense of cable companies. Vermont Dish installers say they see a spike in orders each time there’s a cable rate increase.

Despite any inroads, cable customers still far outnumber satellite subscribers in Vermont. Fifty-three percent of the state’s households are hooked to cable. Mark Adamy of Adelphia says the number of Adelphia subscribers has remained flat. Where the company is seeing growth is in selling its customers additional services available through their cable hook-up.

(Adamy) “We believe our platform is our competitive advantage. Not only do we provide a very strong cable or video offering, we can also offer other products over the same cable lines that most customers in Vermont already have in their homes, like high-speed Internet connection. We can also talk about high definition TV and digital video recorders which we’re introducing in Vermont right now.”

(Zind) Adelphia says cable rates in Burlington have increased 30% since 1999 but they say that’s because there’s been a commensurate increase in the number of stations available on cable.

A comparison of the two companies’ no frills packages shows that Burlington Adelphia cable customers currently pay a monthly fee of about $41 for service that includes 69 stations. The monthly fee for Dish Network is $25 for 50 stations.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.

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