Housing bust means losses for cable firms

Like so many features of the consumer landscape, telecommunications and electronics have been slammed by this country’s housing and unemployment crises.

Which leaves industry experts with no clear picture of when people will once again begin spending freely on entertainment and other technology.

The housing bust, among other things, has quietly translated into fewer cable TV hookups. Foreclosures and vacant homes also have shrunk the market.

Comcast, which acquired cable franchises in fast-growing new-home markets as part of its purchase of Adelphia Communications Corp. earlier this decade, has been hurt more than some other firms.

These days, wireless, cable, and telephone companies are offering economy-tier products, which appear to be stabilizing the consumer part of their businesses.

Verizon Communications Inc. says its consumer cell phone trade remains robust. But as companies shed jobs, its business segment has taken a hit. For one thing, when businesses eliminate employees, they no longer have to provide them with cell phones.

DirecTV says fewer customers are taking premium channels such as HBO, Showtime, and Starz. Pay-per-view orders also have declined. The company said it believed economic woes had led some customers to cut back on these extra-cost services.

What will it take for consumers to come back to the spending fold and seek out all those amped-up laptops, fully loaded cell phones, and elaborate cable packages?

People will have to feel secure in their jobs and comfortable with the state of the housing market, many experts said they believed.

(c) 2009, The Philadelphia Inquirer. Source: McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.