US Digital Pay TV Operators Suffer Second Consecutive Quarter of Sub Losses

Thursday, November 18th, 2010 
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AT&T and Verizon are Bright Spots in Otherwise Gloomy Q3’10

BOSTON — For the second quarter in a row, North American digital pay TV operators added fewer subscribers than in the preceding period. Comcast added only 219,000 new digital subs in the third quarter, a sharp decrease from Q2 adds of 394,000. Satellite operator Dish saw its second consecutive quarter of subscriber losses, reporting a decrease of 29,000 for the period.

The extent to which net additional subscriber declines are attributable to economic malaise, seasonality or “cord cutting” is still being debated. However, survey research recently fielded by Strategy Analytics shows that 13% of current US pay TV subscribers intend to drop their pay TV service in the next 12 months–and not replace it with another.

“If two quarters of subscriber losses is a trend, would three be a pattern?” asked Ben Piper, Director in the Strategy Analytics Digital Consumer Practice. “Our research suggests that cord cutting is fast becoming a reality, and now the operator numbers bear that out.”

Telco TV operators were one of the few bright spots in an otherwise gloomy quarter. AT&T netted 235,000 new pay TV subscribers in the quarter, driven by expanded deployment of its U-Verse IPTV offering. More than 90 percent of U-verse TV customers bundle High Speed Internet, and 75 percent of U-verse TV customers have a triple- or quad-play. Likewise, Verizon added 204,000 new FiOS TV subscribers in the quarter–a 7% sequential improvement.

The report, “Digital Television Operator Performance Benchmarking: North America Q3’10,” summarizes quarterly subscriber growth trends for the 19 leading Digital Pay TV Operators operating in the United States and Canada. In addition to tracking subscribers, market shares and selected financial metrics, this report also provides operator-level subscriber forecasts for 2011. This report also contains a flat file of all data, allowing clients to create customized pivot tables.