Cable Erosion Accelerates, New Nielsen Data Marks One Of The Worst Declines Ever


The trend line for U.S. cable network subscriptions isn’t pretty. According to an analysis of Nielsen data published this morning by Wall Street equities researcher Pivotal Research Group, the erosion of traditional cable TV subscriptions is accelerating, declining by 3.1% based on Nielsen’s new May 2017 cable network universe estimates.

Excluding distribution through vMVPDs (virtual multichannel video programming distributors, such as over-the-top services), Pivotal analyst Brian Wieser estimates the median cable network tracked by Nielsen lost 2.7% subscribers, despite an estimated 1.0% expansion in the number of TV households for the month.

“It is also critical to note that Nielsen updated its total TV household estimate beginning with the September 2017 data, as it often does at that time of year,” Wieser points out, adding, “The total number of TV Households is presently 119.6 million vs. 118.4 million for the year prior to September 2017.

“This change provides a tailwind to many of the growth rates indicated here. Despite the top line +1.0% TV household growth rate, total homes with pay TV on a like-for-like basis can be calculated as falling -3.1%, for a gap of -4.1% between the growth rate of TV households and the growth rates of conventional MVPD-based pay TV subscribers.”

As a result, Wieser terms the 3.1% rate of cable subscriber erosion in May as a “marked deceleration,” adding that it is “among the worst rates of decline we have observed in our data set, which goes back to 2010.”

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