TV ‘cord-cutting’ in Canada slows in 2017

Wednesday, March 14th, 2018
Boon Dog Professional Services logo

TV ‘cord-cutting’ in Canada bucks the trend, slows in 2017 compared to the previous year

OTTAWA — Canada’s publicly traded television service providers[1] combined lost almost 20% fewer TV subscribers in 2017 compared to 2016, bucking the trend of accelerating TV cord-cutting in recent years, according to new research from Ottawa-based research and consulting firm Boon Dog Professional Services Inc. However, Boon Dog predicts this is just a temporary positive turn in what is likely to be a long and winding road of permanent TV subscriber declines in the future.

The big TV service providers combined lost an estimated 166,000* TV subscribers in their respective 2017 fiscal years, down from an estimated 205,000* lost in the previous year.

“The significant turnaround in TV subscriber performance at Shaw Cable mostly in the first half of the year as a result of the launch of its BlueSky TV service based on Comcast’s X1 IPTV platform is almost entirely behind the improved cord-cutting numbers for 2017,” says Boon Dog Partner Mario Mota. “However, Shaw’s improved subscriber performance was not consistent throughout the year as it lost more subscribers in its fourth quarter than it did in the same period a year earlier, and it still lost subscribers overall in its fiscal year. This is consistent with Comcast’s own experience with its X1 platform. While its launch initially provided a boost in TV subscriber performance—an increase in subscribers of 103,000 in 2016, its first in 10 years—the bubble burst in 2017 as it lost 186,000 TV subscribers. Given what we’ve seen to date, we believe the X1 platform will not be an elixir for cord-cutting in Canada.”

Boon Dog estimates that roughly 11.2 million households subscribed to a traditional TV service at the end of 2017, which means the 166,000 customers lost last year represents about 2% of the total market. However, the traditional TV service providers are losing pace with household growth in the country and therefore TV subscription penetration is declining at a greater level than simply the cord-cutting numbers suggest.

A full analysis of the latest TV subscriber metrics and subscriber forecasts will be published in the next report in Boon Dog’s Canadian Digital TV Market Monitor research series.

[1] BCE, Rogers, Shaw/Shaw Direct, Vidéotron, Cogeco, and TELUS
* Rounded numbers and excluding any acquisitions and divestitures