Pay TV Industry Records Positive Q4 Subscriber Efforts

For the first time in nearly two decades, cable TV pay subscribers rose in a quarterly period -- outperforming the industry as a whole.

MoffettNathanson Research says cable TV pay subscribers rose added a net 102,000 subscribers in the fourth quarter; while telco companies declined 224,000.

Satellite pay TV providers added 73,000.

“For the first time since 1994, the cable industry’s subscriber numbers are better than pay TV's as whole,” writes Craig Moffett, senior research analyst of MoffettNathanson.

Moffett says some of the telco declines comes from AT&T de-emphasizing its U-Verse telco pay TV business, in favor of boosting its new DirecTV satellite TV acquisition.

For traditional cable operators, Comcast, Time Warner and Charter, added major business in the fourth quarter -- with net additions, up 89,000, 58,000, and 33,000 respectively.

While long-term overall trends still aren’t great, Moffett says “that’s hardly the sky-is-falling narrative so many hand wringers seem secretly to be wishing for.” Pay TV providers continue to have concerns over cord-cutting.

When adding Dish Network’s OTT service, Sling TV, this meant an overall quarterly rise of 80,000. Without Sling TV, it resulted in a decline for the fourth quarter of 49,000.

MoffettNathanson says Sling TV added 129,000 subscribers in the fourth quarter -- and now totals 523,000 subscribers since it began operation in the first quarter. For the full-year 2015 pay TV business (including Dish Network’s OTT service Sling TV) was down 0.6% to 98.3 million subscribers -- without Sling TV, the decline was 1.1% to 97.9 million.

Overall, for the 2015 year, however, cable TV subscribers were up 1% to land at 53.1 million; with telco companies down 1.2% for the year to 11.7 million. Satellite pay TV business was down 1.3% for the year to 33.2 million.

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