After a brief respite in the last two quarters, the US pay-TV industry is shrinking again, albeit at a somewhat slower pace than a year ago.
In its latest report, Leichtman Research Group Inc. (LRG) calculates that the 13 largest US pay-TV providers, representing 95% of the total video market, collectively lost 300,000 video subscribers in the second quarter. That more than wipes out their gain of 260,000 subs in the first quarter.
The good news for the pay-TV industry is that the video subscriber losses represent its lowest in four years in the traditionally weak spring quarter. Last year, for instance, the industry shed 350,000 video customers in the spring.
The LRG results gibe with what Craig Moffett, a principal and senior analyst at MoffettNathanson, found in a similar report last week. Moffett also found that cord-cutting slowed to "a crawl" in the second quarter, dropping to an annualized rate of 400,000 households a year. (See Cord-Cutting Slows But Danger Still Real – Moffett .)
In another good sign for pay-TV operators, the industry has actually gained 20,000 video subscribers over the past year, noted Bruce Leichtman, president and principal analyst of LRG. That contrasts with a cumulative loss of about 70,000 subs over the previous 12-month period.
The bad news, of course, is that the industry continues to shed video subscribers by the hundreds of thousands in its worst quarters, virtually wiping out any gains that it makes in its best quarters. Plus, many of the top 13 providers, particularly the cable operators, continue to lose video customers throughout the year.
As usual, the cable industry suffered the worst losses, shedding 510,000 TV customers during the spring. While the nine largest cable operators still have the most video subs, they have fallen below the 50-million customer mark for the first time, giving them slightly more than 50% of the 95.5 million-sub market.
Although some of the other major MSOs lost far more subs in the quarter, Cable One Inc. took the biggest proportional hit. The nation's ninth-largest cable operator lost 34,254 video customers in the second quarter, representing 6.5% of its total base. LRG noted that this was the highest percentage loss in a single quarter by any top pay-TV provider in the past decade.
Moving on to the satellite TV sector, DirecTV Group Inc. (NYSE: DTV) and Dish Network LLC (Nasdaq: DISH) lost a combined 78,000 video subscribers in the second quarter, an improvement over their loss of 162,000 subs in the prior-year period. The two satellite TV providers ended the quarter with a collective 34.3 million customers, giving them at least 35% of the market.
The two biggest telco TV players, AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), continued to make inroads in the pay-TV market, picking up a combined 290,000 video subs in the quarter. But the gain represented a decline from their year-ago pickup of 373,000 subs. The two telcos ended the quarter with a combined 11.3 million video subs, giving them about a 12% market share.
— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading