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Pay cable’s cooking

Premium nets see subscriber counts grow

While a steep recession continues to wrack the broader ad-supported TV business, operators of premium cable networks including HBO, Showtime and Starz are holding up just fine.

According to data released by research company SNL Kagan, pay TV subscriptions actually grew by 836,000 in the fourth quarter last year.

In fact, Kagan reported that Showtime alone added 330,000 subscribers during the period, bringing its total to nearly 16.5 million.

“People are going out to dinner less, entertaining less and staying at home more, and we’re beneficiaries,” said Showtime prexy-CEO Matt Blank.

HBO, which has by far the biggest subscriber base of any premium net, saw its sub count remain essentially flat during the fourth quarter at around 29 million.

Starz, meanwhile, posted an increase of about 315,000 during the period to 17.7 million.

Kagan attributed the gains to the growth of telco-based TV services, which have added 3.4 million premium TV subscribers over the last year as satellite and MSOs have experienced slow growth.

HBO co-prexy Eric Kessler expressed confidence that his network will continue to hold its subscriber base.

“Obviously, no business is recession-proof, but we’re cautiously optimistic,” he said.

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