New platforms put pinch on Belgian cable

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BRUSSELS -- Belgian cable operators have seen their subscriber numbers fall for the first time in 16 years, as competition from other platforms such as IPTV begins to bite.

Figures from industry body Cable Belgium reveal that, at the end of 2007, there were 3.9 million households connected, a loss of 46,000 or 1.2%, compared with 2006.

The dip is blamed on competition from other platforms, with IPTV provider Belgacom TV now reaching 305,000 homes -- an increase of 166,000 in 12 months. Last year, direct-to-home platform TV Vlaanderen also appeared on the scene, grabbing more than 50,000 subscribers.

Belgacom TV head Jean-Charles De Keyser said that 67% of his customers had dropped their cable connection. But he said that 35% were now ordering films and programs through Belgacom TV's video-on-demand service.

De Keyser said that most of these customers ordered three or four items a month, with 17,000 paying 5 euros ($8) to see "300" and "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix."

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