The top 13 pay-TV companies collectively lost 190,000 video customers in the third quarter, according to Leichtman Research Group.
The losses exceeded the 155,000 customers shed in the third quarter of 2014. But the blood-letting isn't as bad as projections of as high as 360,000 rendered by some media analysts.
The top nine cable companies lost 145,000 video subscribers in the third quarter, their fewest during that period dating back to 2006. This compared to 440,000 cable TV customers lost in the third quarter of 2014.
In a separate report also published by Leichtman today, the research company found that these same cable operators added 790,000 broadband subscribers during the third quarter, vs. losses of 143,000 by telco-based operators.
The improvements in the performance of the nation's cable companies appeared to have come at the expense of telco and satellite providers. Indeed, telco-based video providers lost 49,000 video subscribers in the third quarter, compared to a gain of 320,000 in the third quarter of last year. AT&T (NYSE: T) contributed significantly to that decline; the company's U-verse platform shrank by 92,000 customers during the period as AT&T began to shift its video priorities to its newly acquired DirecTV asset.
Meanwhile, satellite operators posted a narrow gain of 3,000 subs, with DirecTV's 26,000 net additions offsetting the 23,000 lost by Dish Network (NASDAQ: DISH). That was actually an improvement over the third quarter of 2014, when the two satellite operators lost 40,000 U.S. customers between them.
Here's where the math gets tricky.
Analysts believe Dish Network's losses for its core satellite service were actually much higher, but the declines were masked by customer additions for the operator's new streaming service, Sling TV.
In fact, MoffettNathanson analyst Craig Moffett estimated that Dish lost 178,000 satellite TV customers during the third quarter. Should paying Sling TV customers, who are paying a monthly check to a pay-TV operator, not be counted as pay-TV customers? For its part, Leichtman is taking Dish's third-quarter report at face value.
The top 13 pay-TV operators measured by Leichtman account for 94 million video customers in the United States.
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