Gap Between Pay TV Decline, Overall TV Homes Widens

The traditional pay TV business continues to show some worsening metrics, with the median decline for pay TV homes down 1.9%, according to current estimates.

Analysis from the Pivotal Research Group -- by way of Nielsen’s February reporting period data -- shows these results are troubling with regard to the growth of cord-cutting, especially in light of overall growth for TV households, which was up 1.7%, a monthly percentage gain repeated every month since September 2016.

That means the “gap” between pay TV subscriber declines and the rise of overall U.S. TV homes was 3.7% -- “worse than any month during which we have data back to 2010,” writes Brian Wieser, senior research analyst at Pivotal.

Wieser does caution that this data does not include new digital multichannel/video program distributors -- Sling TV, DirecTV Now, or PlayStation Vue, for example.

“The reality is certainly better than this because VMVPDs [Virtual Multichannel Video Programming Distributors] would reduce the decline, although not likely by much more than a percentage point or so. Comprehensive VMVPD data will not be included in these estimates until the middle of 2017.”



In February 2016, there was a pay TV median decline in subscribers of 1.6% -- with declines dipping lower in the summer 2016 period, anywhere from 2.2% to 2.4%. But there was no change in the overall growth of U.S. TV homes during the period.

The big cable network subscriber showing declines for February included NBCU’s Esquire -- which had already announced it will abandon its efforts as a linear TV network and turned into a Internet/digital Web site network programmer -- falling 33.2%; Viacom’s Nicktoons, down 9.6%; and Viacom’s Centric, losing 7.1%.

Time Warner’s Boomerang slipped 7.0%, while HBO gave back 5.5% and Disney’s ESPN2 and ESPN were down by 3.4% and 3.5%, respectively.

Those showing growth in subscribers were AMC’s Sundance, 12.1%; CBS’ Smithsonian, adding 8%; Fox’s FXX, 7.5%; FX Movie Channel, 5.1%; Discovery’s Velocity, 7.0%; and AMC’s BBC America, 4.6%);

Pivotal Research says that among 117 measured networks this year and last, 27 showed some subscriber growth.

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