×

Pay-TV Sector Posts Worst Q1 Subscriber Trends in Four Years

U.S. cable, satellite providers slump in period, while telco TV remained strong

Internet video services may have significantly put the hurt on U.S. cable and satellite TV companies in the first quarter, as big ops posted their weakest subscriber results in four years.

Overall, the sector added gained 176,000 subscribers in the first three months, according to Citigroup analyst Jason Bazinet. Meanwhile, the two biggest Internet streaming-video subscription services — Netflix and Hulu Plus — racked up more than 3 million in the period.

Q1 is historically one of the strongest periods for pay TV providers. But the 176,000 net adds in the most recent quarter came in at less than half the totals for the sector in the previous three years, according to Bazinet’s calculations. The industry added 403,000 in the first quarter of 2012; 483,000 in Q1 2011; and 507,000 in Q1 2010.

Indeed, the four largest publicly held MSOs in the States — Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Charter Communications and Cablevision Systems — collectively lost 208,000 video subscribers in Q1 2013, exactly double the 104,000 they dropped in the year-earlier period.

“With housing starts improving year over year, we expect these results to stoke fears of cord-cutting and losses to over-the-top (services),” Nomura Securities analyst Michael McCormack wrote in a research note.

Telcos AT&T and Verizon held their ground in the first quarter, adding 232,000 and 169,000 TV subs, respectively. But satcasters DirecTV and Dish Network were off substantially: DirecTV added just 21,000 U.S. subs (versus 81,000 a year ago) and Dish gained 36,000 net TV subscribers (versus 104,000 in Q1 2012).

“The first quarter of the year is generally strong, but one in which price increases are typically instituted, resulting in churn and marketing opportunities,” ISI Media analysts Vijay Jayant, David Joyce and Vikash Harlalka noted in a research note.

Cable operators, though, continued to beat telephone companies on Internet and phone services. The four top public MSOs accounted for about 77% of broadband subscriber additions in the first quarter, and added a net 260,000 voice subs as AT&T and Verizon shed 1 million phone line connections.

More Digital

  • eOne Names Bill Wilson Senior VP

    eOne Names Bill Wilson Senior VP

    Entertainment One (“eOne”) has tapped Bill Wilson as Senior Vice President Digital Operations and Innovation, Music, the company announced today. Wilson will oversee all aspects of digital strategy across the company’s music business, including label service, talent management, music publishing and live entertainment, according to the announcement.  Wilson will be based in New York City and [...]

  • Jennifer Kaytin Robinson Someone Great

    'Someone Great' Director Jennifer Kaytin Robinson on Reimagining the Rom-Com

    Jennifer Kaytin Robinson, creator of the MTV series “Sweet/Vicious,” recently made her feature debut with “Someone Great,”  now streaming on Netflix. The film follows three friends as they navigate relationships and work in New York City.  Here, the writer-director opens up on reimagining the rom-com, and women changing the face of Hollywood. The three young [...]

  • Hulu-Logo

    Comcast Mulling Sale of Hulu Stake to Disney (Report)

    Comcast is holding talks with Disney to see if they can hammer out a deal to sell Comcast’s one-third stake in Hulu to the Mouse House — which would give Disney full control over Hulu, CNBC reported. The report comes a little over a week after AT&T sold its 9.5% stake in Hulu to the [...]

  • Cox Cable Testing a Form of

    Cox Cable Testing Gamer Network Service to Reduce Lag

    UPDATED: Cox Cable is testing a new “Elite Gamer Service” that is designed to speed up connections between gamers and games, but which the company says doesn’t prioritize internet use. The service began testing in Arizona this week and Cox tells Variety it plans to run the test for about three weeks. The $15 a [...]

  • Angie-Nwandu-The-Shade-Room

    The Shade Room, a Top Instagram Celebrity and Gossip Publisher, Unveils First Slate of Original Series (EXCLUSIVE)

    The Shade Room, a top Instagram-based media publisher focused on black culture, entertainment and celebrity gossip, is launching three new original series on the social platform. The five-year-old venture, the brainchild of entrepreneur Angelica Nwandu, runs one of the most highly engaged accounts on Instagram: @TheShadeRoom, which has 15.3 million followers (referred to as “Roommates”), [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content