With five out of the top six pay-TV platforms reporting subscriber metrics for the second quarter, this year's Q2 is shaping up to look even worse than epic 2015 meltdown that sent media and operators stocks cratering.
So far, with Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA), Verizon (NYSE: VZ), Dish Network and AT&T (DirecTV and U-verse) reporting earnings, pay-TV has lost 375,000 subscribers. During the second quarter of 2015, these five leading platforms collectively posted losses of 279,000 customers.
All told, the pay-TV sector lost 625,000 customers in the second quarter last year, making it the worst quarter ever for subscriber metrics.
The bright side: Charter Communications (NASDAQ: CHTR), which will now encompass metrics for the newly acquired Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks, is expected to post strong customer numbers when it reports earnings on August 9.
"Frankly, we are shocked the media stocks haven't already reacted more negatively," said Bernstein Research analyst Todd Juenger in a note to investors this morning.
"Relative trends at the cable co's are expected to be better," he added. "But they will have a lot of ground to make up just to get back to last year's Q2 rate of year-over-year decline – which was bad enough to send the media sector into a meltdown."
While the second quarter is typically weak for pay-TV customer growth, a host of varying factors among individual operators conspired to once again crater the numbers.
Dish Network (NASDAQ: DISH), for example, is reeling from successive carriage and retransmission battles, the latest being an impasse with Tribune Media that has kept 42 network affiliates in 33 markets blacked out on the satellite service. Dish reported customer losses of 281,000 for the second quarter, but attrition to its core satellite service was probably much worse without the benefit of Sling TV's subscriber growth thrown in.
Verizon, meanwhile, blamed a seven-week strike for paralyzing advertising and installations. AT&T (NYSE: T) has moved away from its U-verse platform in favor of its recently acquired DirecTV asset.
All told, the major satellite and telco services reported losses of 371,000 customers in the second quarter compared to 202,000 in the same period a year ago.
- read this Bernstein Research report (sub. req.)
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