Pay TV Subscribers Decline

Pay TV subscribers were down in the third quarter by amount the same levels versus the third quarter a year ago -- all pretty much expected.

MoffettNathanson Research’s analysis -- from its estimates and company reports -- is that there was 1.3% decline, a drop of 455,000 subscribers, similar to the 432,000 fall in the third quarter a year ago. This comes in traditional seasonally weak period. Total traditional TV subscribers now total 96.8 million.

A key factor in this performance is the formation of new U.S. households, which had a net gain of 317,000 during the period, virtually flat versus the 330,000 in the third quarter a year ago.

Factoring in one of the oldest digital TV service of linear TV networks, Dish Network’s year and half old Sling TV, Moffett says the decline was 0.8%. This would bring total traditional TV subscribers to 97.6 million. Moffett estimates Sling TV now has 911,000 subscribers.

Still, Craig Moffett, senior analyst of MoffettNathanson, worries about more declines, due to increase cord-cutting. He writes: “It’s hard not to feel a fair big of trepidation about what lies ahead,” especially as new digital TV services coming.



One interesting area to focus on is AT&T’s DirecTV Now, the new over-the top-digital service of packaged linear TV networks, priced at $35, to be launched soon. Should that be successful,“it is easy to imagine that there will be a very significant acceleration ahead,” says Moffett.

MoffettNathanson Research says cable subscribers are down 0.3% for the period, versus the third quarter a year ago, to 52.7 million; satellite subscribers up 0.8% to 33.3 million; and telco subscribers down 11.7% to 10.8 million.

Much of the latter's decline comes from AT&T transition in moving its U-Verse customers to DirecTV.

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