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Bell-DBS Alliance Still Means Trouble

Who needs IPTV when you've already got satellite TV? Not Verizon. Nor AT&T nor BellSouth nor Qwest for that matter. For all the buzz generated by the Bells' respective landline TV ventures, the real video action is quietly happening in the heavens. As a largely ignored press release from Verizon pointed out late last week, the nation's second biggest phone company now has 415,000 satellite TV subscribers, after hooking up another 66,000 customers for DirecTV service in the first quarter. All of these Verizon customers are also bundled "triple"play" subscribers, having signed up for phone and DSL service as well. And Verizon is only third best among the four major Bells in hawking satellite TV packages. BellSouth now leads the pack with an impressive 628,000 DirecTV subscribers, after netting 105,000 new customers in Q1. AT&T ranks second with 491,000 EchoStar subscribers, following the addition of 34,000 customers in the winter quarter. Even lowly Qwest has now compiled 170,000 DirecTV customers, after enlisting 42,000 in the first three months of the year. As a result, the four RBOCs have now accumulated slightly over 1.7 million satellite TV customers through their marketing partnerships with the two DBS giants. That's enough to qualify them collectively as a top 10 MSO, bigger than all but the seven or eight largest cable operators in the land. So forget about FiOS TV, U-verse and all those other telco TV ventures on the ground for the moment. The biggest Bell threat today is still coming from the skies.
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