Don’t write a eulogy for pay TV yet. Even though bills keep climbing — and Internet-video options like Netflix are expanding rapidly — cable, satellite and telco TV operators may eke out a small net gain of customers this year.
In 2014, U.S. cable, satellite and telco TV are expected to end the year with 103.1 million subscribers, up just a smidge from 102.5 million last year, according to new study by Parks Associates. That’s just a half a percentage point of growth, which means pay-TV has effectively plateaued. But the industry’s fear that the Internet could cut away a sizable portion of its customer base has — so far — not been realized.
Incumbent cable operators have been hardest hit over the last few years with sub losses, as consumers have switched to satellite and telco providers. But earlier this week, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts touted a reversal for the nation’s biggest MSO: For the first time in nearly seven years, Comcast added video subscribers in the fourth quarter (though he didn’t provide a figure).
Pay-TV providers could keep their customers happy and prevent them from canceling service by introducing new features, Parks’ surveys indicate.
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Remote access to DVR content was the most-cited feature among pay-TV households surveyed by Parks, with 31% of respondents expressing interest in it. Of the biggest operators, only Dish Network offers remote access to DVR content, through its Slingbox-enabled Hopper DVR.
By comparison, 27% said they want TV Everywhere — access to video content outside the home on mobile devices — and 26% said they were interested in personalized recommendations.
Parks timed the release of the report for the 2014 International CES, being held this week in Las Vegas.