U.S. pay TV subscribers decline 802,000 in first quarter

Tuesday, May 16th, 2017
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Kagan Releases First Quarter U.S. Multichannel Subscriber Report

  • Total U.S. pay TV subscribers decline by more than 800,000 in first quarter

MONTEREY, Calif. — Traditional multichannel defections picked up speed in the first quarter with an estimated loss of 802,000 subscriptions, according to Kagan, a group within S&P Global Market Intelligence. The 0.8% decline in a single quarter occurred in the historically strong first three months of the year.

The impact of new streaming options suggests an important component of the loss comes from a shift in platforms within the familiar subscription construct rather than outright cord cutting. The estimated total traditional multichannel subscriptions fell to 97.0 million in the first quarter. Adding estimated subscribers from virtual services including Sling TV, DirecTV Now and Playstation Vue, lifts the combined total subscriptions to a package of live linear channels and on-demand content to 99.2 million.

Additional takeaways from Kagan’s 1st-quarter U.S. Multichannel Subscriber report:

  • Cable operators lost 188,000 total video customers. It was a smaller loss than posted by Direct Broadcast Satellite (DBS) and telecommunications (telco) competitors, but it was cable’s worst first-quarter performance since 2013.
  • The DBS segment stumbled in Q1 after full-year gains in 2016. The two providers, which both have launched virtual service provider (VSP) alternatives, lost a combined 291,000 subscribers in the quarter.
  • The telcos lost further ground behind several prominent retreats from the multichannel business. Combined, the telcos lost 324,000 subscribers in the first three months of the year.
  • The combined residential subscriptions for cable, DBS and telco services accounted for 76.7% of the potential residential universe, using figures compiled from U.S. Census reports.