Fewer subscriber losses due to cord cutting this quarter, analyst says

Cord cutting
After factoring in estimated growth for virtual MVPDs, U.S. video subscriber losses may have improved during the quarter. (Wikimedia Commons)

The cord-cutting problem wasn’t solved overnight, but several encouraging signs for pay TV operators popped up during the most recent quarter.

MoffettNathanson analysts Craig Moffett and Michael Nathanson have been tracking subscriber reports and said that the rate of subscriber declines for pay TV operators improved year over year this quarter, from 3.4% to 3.3%.

“To be sure, a 1/10th of 1% improvement isn’t large, but, for what it’s worth, it marks the second consecutive quarter that saw fewer subscriber losses than in the corresponding quarter last year,” the analysts wrote.

Furthermore, by factoring in growth for virtual MVPDs—and having to assume growth rates for PlayStation Vue, Hulu Live and YouTube TV—the analysts said that the total number of households paying for a TV subscription in the U.S. grew year over year.

“We don’t want to overstress this point, as our assumptions are admittedly rough—evidenced by the fact that we’ve had to again go back and revise previous estimates for vMVPDs—but it would mark an important milestone,” the analysts wrote.

The analysts noted that many upcoming launches, including Disney’s streaming service, T-Mobile’s pay TV launch with Layer3 and Apple’s original programming plans, could still disrupt the pay TV landscape.

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Using available subscriber information for YouTube TV and Hulu, and factoring in recent changes to household formation at the U.S. Census Bureau, MoffettNathanson estimated pay TV subscribers in the U.S. grew 0.2% in the second quarter after steady quarterly losses dating back to 2012.

Indeed, both Dish Network’s Sling TV and AT&T’s DirecTV Now reported growth during the quarter. Sling TV said it added 41,000 subscribers and now has a total of 2.34 million. DirecTV Now said it added 342,000 subscribers and now has a total of 1.8 million.

But Dish in total lost a net 151,000 pay TV subscribers and AT&T only recorded 80,000 total video net adds after factoring losses for its traditional video distribution platforms. Charter lost 73,000 video subscribers, Altice USA lost 24,000 and Comcast lost 140,000.