B'band drives big year for Japanese cable biz

2005 hits record high of $226.5 mil

TOKYO -- Profits at Japan's cable television operators have hit record highs thanks largely to increased earnings from broadband Internet access via TV cable.

A report by the Development Bank of Japan put the earnings of 182 client cable companies for fiscal 2005 at ?26.5 billion ($226.5 million), an increase of ?5.2 billion ($44.4 million) from the previous year and the highest since the bank's first annual research report in 2000.

"Total revenues have gone up every year since 2000 and we are glad we have been able to continue that trend," said Takashi Komano, general manager of the Japan Cable Television Assn.'s accounting department.

"The Internet business has earned our member companies excellent profits in the past three years, while there has also been an increase in subscribers to our services in Japan," he said.

The association represents 368 companies, many of which are small, community-based organizations. Many have run up large debts in recent years because of the need to invest in new technology and equipment, Komano said, though those outlays are now reaping a profit.

One area of concern is the growing strength of rapidly expanding telecom companies. The bank report suggested that cable firms consider mergers or business alliances to ward off the competition as well as offering more local content.

"We are studying future opportunities and, for the next few years at least, we are optimistic that our member companies will continue to see growth," Komano said.