AP: Cable subscribers fleeing, but no one knows where

Cable TV subscribers are increasingly ditching their service but it remains unclear whether it's due to the economy or the availability of video content via the Internet.

The Associated Press reported Friday that third-quarter results reported this week by major cable and satellite TV providers show major subscriber losses, but the cause remains undetermined. Time Warner chief Landel Hobbs pointed out most subscriber losses come from folks that don't have broadband Internet; Time Warner lost 155,000 subscribers in the third quarter.

Comcast reported that subscriber losses doubled last quarter to 275,000; the firm argued many of those disconnecting had taken advantage of low-priced introductory offers available the previous year. Cable companies have been losing subscribers for years, but most have compensated by selling more expensive digital packages.

Time Warner and Cablevision also reported losing digital subscribers last quarter, adding to the fear that some consumers may choose to forego cable service in favor of online video services such as Apple TV and Netflix. Netflix has grown to become the largest source of U.S. Web traffic during peak evening hours.

However, most industry observers contend the main reason for the decline in subscribers is the ongoing recession, which has forced families to reduce expenses in the face of a significant increase in long-term unemployment.