Cable Technology Feature Article
Cable Leads the Way to Another Year of Video Subscriber Losses
By Tara Seals, TMCnet Contributor
Pay-TV penetration continues to drop quarter-over-quarter with the 13 largest multichannel video providers in the U.S. -- representing about 94 percent of the market and losing about 105,000 net video subscribers in 2013.
That overall total belies the deeper story: Leichtman Research Group has found that the cable sector is responsible for most of that fall-off: the top nine cable companies lost about 1.74 million video subscribers in 2013 -- compared to a loss of about 1.41 million subscribers in 2012.
"2013 was the first year for multichannel video industry losses, but the modest losses represent only about 0.1 percent of all subscribers," said Bruce Leichtman, president and principal analyst for Leichtman Research Group, Inc. "While the overall market remains fairly flat, further share-shifting has taken place. Cable providers now have a 52 percent share of the top multichannel video subscribers in the U.S., compared to a 58 percent share three years ago."
The No. 1 and No. 2 cable MSOs in the market—which have plans to merge under a proposed $45 billion deal—saw the most losses. Comcast (News - Alert) and Time Warner Cable lost a combined 1.1 million video subscribers. Comcast finished 2013 with 21.7 million on the rolls, down 305,000 according to Leichtman (That’s a slight improvement over the loss of 336,000 in 2012). Comcast did actually manage to gain 43,000 subscribers in the fourth quarter, after 26 consecutive quarters of subscriber losses.
TWC meanwhile continued its own long track record of losses with 825,000 video subscribers walking away in the year, making for 11.4 million total TV subscribers.
Telcos—notably AT&T and Verizon (News - Alert) were the fastest-growing segment of the video market. They added 1.46 million video subscribers in 2013 -- compared to 1.30 million net additions in 2012. Satellite TV also grew, albeit at a slower pace than in the past. DISH and DirecTV (News - Alert) added 170,000 video subscribers in 2013 compared to 288,000 net additions in 2012.
As it stands, the top multi-channel video providers account for over 94.6 million subscribers -- with the top nine cable companies having 49.6 million video subscribers, satellite TV companies having 34.3 million subscribers, and top telephone companies having 10.7 million subscribers.
Overall, the annual net multichannel video additions in 2013 were about 280,000 fewer than in 2012, when the industry added about 175,000 subscribers.
The net losses may represent a tiny fraction of households, but other research suggests that cord-cutters are on the rise in the United States, with 10 percent of pay-TV subscribers in a survey by Morgan Stanley saying that they 'definitely' plan to discontinue their service in the next 12 months.
That's up by 2 percent year-over-year. In addition, about 11 percent said that they will probably cut the cord this year, up from 9 percent in 2013 — making the potential churn rate as much as 21 percent overall. And even though half of cable, satellite and IPTV (News - Alert) providers said they definitely plan to keep existing subscriptions, this would represent a six point drop from the previous year.
Image via Shutterstock.
Nonetheless, consumers are consuming more TV content, partially because of the explosion of options to watch subscription content on mobile and connected devices. The total number of hours of television content consumed each week climbed to nearly 21, up from a little more than 19 hours last year and 16.7 hours in 2011. The number of hours spent watching just on televisions however dipped, from 15.7 to 15.5.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi