Major U.S. pay TV providers add 10,000 subscribers in 1Q 2015

Thursday, May 14th, 2015
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Major Pay-TV providers added about 10,000 subscribers in 1Q 2015

  • Pay-TV Net Adds Down Over 240,000 from Last Year’s First Quarter

DURHAM, NH — Leichtman Research Group, Inc. (LRG) found that the thirteen largest pay-TV providers in the US — representing about 95% of the market — added fewer than 10,000 net video subscribers in 1Q 2015, compared to a gain of over 250,000 video subscribers in 1Q 2014. This marked the weakest first quarter for pay-TV net adds since LRG began tracking the industry over a decade ago.

The top pay-TV providers account for nearly 95.2 million subscribers — with the top nine cable companies having about 49.2 million video subscribers, satellite TV companies having over 34.2 million subscribers, and top telephone companies having over 11.7 million subscribers.

Other key findings for the quarter include:

  • The top nine cable companies lost about 60,000 video subscribers in 1Q 2015 — similar to a loss of about 50,000 subscribers in 1Q 2014
  • Satellite TV providers lost 74,000 subscribers in 1Q 2015 — compared to a gain of 52,000 in 1Q 2014
  • Total DBS net adds in 1Q 2015 were the fewest in any first quarter, and fourth lowest in any quarter, since LRG began tracking the industry
  • The top telephone providers added 140,000 video subscribers in 1Q 2015 — compared to 251,000 net additions in 1Q 2014
  • Net video adds for the Telcos in 1Q 2015 were the fewest in any quarter since 4Q 2006
  • Over the past year, pay-TV providers lost about 370,000 subscribers — compared to a loss of about 65,000 subscribers over the prior year

“The traditionally strong first quarter for the pay-TV industry did not prove to be so this year. Despite virtually breaking even in the quarter, the first quarter of 2015 marked the first significant sign of an acceleration in pay-TV subscriber losses,” said Bruce Leichtman, president and principal analyst for Leichtman Research Group, Inc. “In addition to changes in consumer demand for video services spurred by competition from alternatives, the decline of about 0.4% of subscribers over the past year was also driven by several providers becoming more discerning in customer acquisition and retention, focusing on higher-value/lower-churn customers at the expense of the volume of subscribers.”

Pay-TV Provider                         Subscribers at  Net Adds in  Net Adds in
                                        End of 1Q 2015      1Q 2015      1Q 2014
                                        --------------  -----------  -----------
Cable Companies
 Comcast                                    22,375,000      (8,000)      24,000
 Time Warner                                11,025,000      33,000      (34,000)
 Charter                                     4,288,000      (5,000)      13,000
 Cablevision                                 2,653,000     (28,000)     (14,000)
 Suddenlink                                  1,132,000      (6,400)       2,400
 Mediacom                                      891,000       1,000       (8,000)
 Cable ONE                                     421,333     (29,884)     (14,331)
 Other major private companies*              6,435,000     (15,000)     (20,000)
Total Top Cable                             49,220,333     (58,284)     (50,931)

Satellite TV Companies (DBS)
 DIRECTV                                    20,412,000      60,000       12,000
 DISH                                       13,844,000    (134,000)      40,000
Total Top DBS                               34,256,000     (74,000)      52,000

Telephone Companies
 AT&T U-verse**                              5,993,000      50,000      194,000
 Verizon FiOS                                5,739,000      90,000       57,000
Total Top Phone                             11,732,000     140,000      251,000

Total Top Pay-TV Providers                  95,208,333       7,716      252,069

Sources: The Companies and Leichtman Research Group, Inc.

* Includes LRG estimates for Cox and Bright House Networks
** Net additions reflect pro forma results from system sales and acquisitions
Top cable companies do not include overbuilder WOW with 606,500 subscribers
Top pay-TV providers represent approximately 95% of all subscribers
Company subscriber counts may not solely represent residential households
Note that LRG consumer research finds that about 1% of households subscribe to both cable and DBS