Saturday, December 31, 2011

Cable Bills "Tripled" in 10 Years?

The problem with measuring price changes for all sorts of products is that, quite often, products change. That can lead to an "apples to oranges" comparison that actually misses the mark. One might argue that such misunderstandings are inevitable, now that SNL Kagan has produced figures arguing that the "average cable bill" has grown from about $40 a month in 2001 to $78 in 2011.

There are a couple of obvious issues. Those are nominal prices, not adjusted for inflation. Using a rough rule of thumb about prices doubling every decade, a $40 inflation-adjusted price in 2001 would be about $80 in 2011, which is about what SNL Kagan says is the case.

Beyond that, there is the other problem also experienced by PC suppliers, namely that performance increases are not captured by the retail sales data. The 2011 channel line-up is, generally speaking, much more extensive than in 2001.

Whether that actually provides value for end users is another question. But the "product" itself is different. Also some will compare the "total bill" for all services in 2001 with the total monthly bill in 2011, and argue for a "tripling" of bills. That also is erroneous.

In 2001 arguably few subscribers were buying triple-play packages of voice, video and data. In 2011 that was more the norm than the exception. So the price for a three-service package is compared to what essentially was a one-service package in 2001. 

One easily can argue that nominal cable retail prices have climbed. But it also is true that consumers are buying a different mix of "products," including high-definition services and devices, digital video recorder service and service at more outlets, for example. Cable bills


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