Cable operators suffered their greatest three-month decline in TV subscribers in 30 years, according to one research firm. Still, there is no widespread evidence of cord-cuttng across the industry -- as both telcos and satellite operators picked up enough subscribers to mitigate an overall drop in those willing to pay for TV service.
SNL Kagan estimates that cable operators lost 741,000 basic video customers in the July-September quarter, compared to the April-June period this year, the largest drop for a quarter since Kagan began tracking the figures in 1980.
And of the approximately 100 million homes that pay for service, cable's aggregated share continued to decline, falling from 62.9% in the third quarter of 2009 to 60.3% this year for the period.
But as the cable slide occurred, the combination of telcos AT&T and Verizon and DBS operators Dish Network and DirecTV posted an increase in subscribers. So overall -- on the critical gauge on potential cord-cutting -- there was an industry-wide drop of 119,000 subscribers, according to Kagan.
That is a minuscule percentage of the 100 million who are paying for TV service. Still, Kagan says the decline marks a second quarter in a row of quarter-over-quarter drops, after years of increases.
In fact, a Kagan analyst did warn of an emerging cord-cutting trend. Ian Olgeirson, senior analyst, stated: "It is becoming increasingly difficult to dismiss the impact of over-the-top substitution video subscriber performance, particularly after seeing declines during the period of the year that tends to produce the largest subscriber gains, due to seasonal shifts back to television viewing and subscription packages."
The just-completed third quarter includes many college students reconnecting to cable hook-ups after returning to school.