The painful restructuring process at NTL is probably well underway. Holders of NTL bonds will have to accept a significant reduction in the nominal value of their holdings. To us, the crucial question is how much debt the slimmed-down UK businesses of NTL can afford to have on the balance sheet. If everything goes right, the number is something over £3 billion. But things will not go right, and the underlying debt capacity of NTL is probably considerably less than a billion pounds.
As noted, TV viewing did indeed fall sharply in the first quarter. Viewership of the main analogue channel, ITV, fell faster. And this is not caused by multichannel competition. ITV's share has fallen fastest in analogue terrestrial-only homes. Sky has been a beneficiary, as have ITV2 and E4, the digital offspring of the main commercial channels.