Cord cutting didn’t accelerate in Q1 but was still way up year over year

A bar chart showing positive business growth
Comcast, Charter, AT&T and Verizon all reported pay TV subscriber losses in the first quarter on their traditional viewing platforms. (Getty/NicoElNino)

Analysts were quick to tell a reactionary Wall Street that cord cutting by consumers didn’t actually accelerate in the first quarter, with the rate of increase over the fourth quarter remaining at around 3.4%.

However, with four of the top five pay TV platforms having reported first-quarter performance, it’s clear that attrition is already way up year over year for linear services.

Comcast, Charter, AT&T and Verizon all reported pay TV subscriber losses last week for traditional platforms, with total attrition coming in at 429,000. These same four operators reported linear losses of 294,000 for the first quarter of 2017.

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The biggest decline was at Comcast, which went from adding 41,000 video users in the first quarter last year to losing 98,000 in the first quarter of 2018.

RELATED: Pay TV operators get hammered by OTT-wary investors, but cord cutting didn’t accelerate in Q1

For its part, Charter lost a greater-than-anticipated 122,000 pay TV users in the first quarter, putting in motion a stock sale that eroded the company’s market cap by around 12%.

AT&T reported losses of around 187,000 across its DirecTV satellite and U-verse TV platforms—a loss it said was more than offset by the gain of 312,000 users for its low-margin DirecTV Now virtual pay TV platform. 

Verizon reported a loss of 22,000 Fios TV users, vs. a loss of around 13,000 in the first quarter of 2017.

RELATED: Major pay TV operators set to report losses of around 510K users in Q1, analyst says

Two weeks ago, Macquarie analyst Amy Kong predicted total video customers losses of around 510,000 for the major operators. 

Dish Network, which lost nearly 1 million users last year, has yet to report earnings. Altice USA’s first-quarter numbers are also pending, as is data from Mediacom, Cable One and the vast flora and fauna of small NCTC-repped cable companies.  

According to Leichtman Research, the top 10 pay TV operators, serving more than 95% of U.S. customers, lost nearly 3 million linear subscribers in 2017. 

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