The media coverage was all about the City Council’s approval of the Infrastructure Trust, but another issue on the agenda of the council’s April 24 session was Chicago’s cable contract with RCN. The terms of the contract the council ratified made that a good day for public access TV in our city.
The past decade has been a boom time for the cable companies operating in Chicago, with their total revenues rising by 82 percent between 2002 and 2010 to reach $453 million, and the franchise fees they pay Chicago soaring from $12.5 million in 2002 to over $22 million today. Comcast dominates this market—it operates in all five of the city’s cable areas and controls more than three-quarters of the cable accounts. RCN entered the market in 2001 in four areas, but quickly pulled back to two, and today it operates only along the lakefront (and at Presidential Towers). Its revenues climbed by 91 percent.
Here’s how Chicago’s cable market is now divided:
Total subscribers: 435,089
Comcast, from five cable areas: 76.75% (333,659 subscribers)
RCN, from two cable areas: 17.5% (76,361 subscribers)
WOW!, from one cable area: 5.75% (25,069 subscribers)