Cable Networks Hit With 3% Average Declines In Monthly Subscribers

Despite the addition of new subscribers from virtual pay TV providers, including Sling TV, DirecTV Now, Hulu, and PlayStation Vue, there has been a decline of nearly 3% in pay TV homes in the most recent Nielsen reporting period.

This extends a bad period for the pay TV business, says Brian Wieser, senior research analyst at Pivotal Research Group, who analyzed the report.

“While broadly in line with trends observed through most of the past year, the past several months in particular are among the worst levels of decline we have observed as far back as we have comparable data, as far as 2010,” says Wieser.

Leaving out the virtual multichannel video program distributors (vMVPD) data, the picture looks worse: Traditional pay TV universe -- cable, satellite, and telco -- sank 3.2% -- despite growth of 1% in overall total TV homes.

This current Nielsen cable Universe Estimates is published as “December 2017” data. Total U.S pay TV homes are just around 100 million homes.



Wieser says cable networks on average added back around 500,000 subscribers during the period from new vMVPDs. Total vMVPD subscribers are close to 3 million, he says, with some subscribers having both traditional MVPD and vMVPD subscriptions.

Most major individual cable TV networks witnessed subscriber declines of around 3% to 4%. Among 118 networks currently tracked by Nielsen, only 12 had growth during the month.

Looking at big, well-distributed cable networks, Starz was a major loser -- down 8.3% for the period. AMC witnessed the least pain, slipping just 0.3%.

Some small cable networks did better: Discovery's Discovery Familia, up 5.8%; Discovery's Velocity, gaining 2.1%; AMC's Sundance, improving 12.0%; and Fox's FXX, growing 3.7%.

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