Nielsen Shaves 2.5% Off Cable Nets, Erosion Appears To Be Accelerating

In what appears to be an ongoing battle of attrition, cable networks lost about 2.5% of their subscribers in new universe estimates released by Nielsen. The estimates, which are Nielsen’s official numbers for April, suggest an acceleration of cable’s erosion, and compare with a year-to-date decline of about 2%.

The erosion of the cable network universe appears to be hitting some of the biggest players most, according to an analysis of Nielsen’s estimates released this morning by Pivotal Research Group.

“Disney’s March figures were weakest, with a -3.6% median decline in household subscription levels to its networks,” Pivotal analyst Brian Wieser writes in the report released to investors this morning. “Viacom’s networks were collectively the next weakest group on a -3.1% median network decline for the company’s 15 rated networks.”



Among 122 cable networks measured by Nielsen, 30 experienced some subscriber growth, and among the major groups Fox’s have retained their overall subscriber base the best, eroding only 0.9%.

Wieser alluded to various “headwinds or tailwinds” contributing to the trend, but overall he said it represents a pattern of “cord-shaving” vs. “cord-cutting,” as U.S. TV households reduce the size of their overall cable packages.

According to the latest Nielsen estimates, pay TV households are down 1.7% and the overall U.S. TV universe is essentially flat.

The contraction could be a double whammy for major cable network groups, because they could face lower subscriber fee revenues from operators, as well as lower advertising revenues from advertisers.

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