Outlook: Cable consolidation is not over yet

AND THEN there were three. The advent of cable TV in Britain has been a generally unhappy experience for all involved. As if digging up the pavement wasn't bad enough, the cable companies then conspired to provide a service of such spectacularly poor quality that it would have done even BT in its pre-privatisation days proud.

Unhappiest of all, however, must be the mainly American players who bankrolled the exercise, as well as those poor unfortunates subsequently seduced into participating in their UK flotations. None of them has yet seen anything like a positive return on the billions they've sunk into the ground.

The response has been our old friend consolidation. The ludicrous legion of area franchises by which the previous government chose to license the cable operators has - through merger, acquisition and takeover - been progressively whittled down to fewer and fewer players, allowing economies of scale and reduced duplication of cost. With yesterday's news that NTL is acquiring ComTel for pounds 550m, the number of serious players in the market has been reduced to just three - Cable and Wireless Communications, Telewest, and NTL itself.

Even so, only C&W Communications of the three has anything like the critical mass to provide a credible national service in telecoms and cable TV. Competition authorities allowing, the process of consolidation might therefore not have come fully to an end, even with this latest deal. This is especially the case as, with the advent of digital terrestrial and satellite TV, many of the advantages cable has had, but failed to exploit, in interactive and pay TV will disappear.

Cable's future, it would seem, lies less in the realm of providing conventional TV to its subscribers and more as a competitive force to BT in telecommunications. To do this credibly, the remaining three would probably have to merge into one. Since on an area-by-area basis the telephone network is already a duopoly of BT and the local cable operator, this may not prove as unpalatable to Oftel and the Office of Fair Trading as might be thought.

For the time being, ego and a healthy jostling for premier position prevents such a get-together. But if digital terrestrial and satellite proves the success the City thinks it will, then cable will struggle to find an alternative way forward.

News
Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal
peopleThreats follows actress' speech on feminism and equality at the UN
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
Life and Style
tech
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
life
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
News
i100
Life and Style
life
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

IT Project manager - Web E-commerce

£65000 Per Annum Benefits + bonus: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: If you are...

Trainee / Experienced Recruitment Consultants

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Soho

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40000: SThree: As a Recruitment Consultant, y...

Trainee Recruitment Consultants - Banking & Finance

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits