Traditional U.S. pay-TV platforms lost 319,000 subscribers in the U.S., according to an estimate made by MoffettNathanson analyst Craig Moffett.
Moffett’s estimate, which includes fourth-quarter reports from the large publicly traded operators, and projections for privately held Cox Communications and Altice USA (which will report earnings next week), compared to a gain of 48,000 subscribers in the fourth quarter of 2015.
“With the results now in from all of the largest operators, it is clear that cord-cutting of legacy distribution services—that is, without including OTT-delivered virtual MVPD bundles like Sling TV and DirecTV Now (and soon, YouTube TV)—has at last meaningfully accelerated,” Moffett said. “While there admittedly remain a few smaller operators left to report, the pay-TV business (as defined by traditional providers) ended 2016 shrinking at 1.7% per year, its fastest quarterly acceleration on record.”
AT&T reported that its new IP-delivered DirecTV Now service signed up around 200,000 customers from its Nov. 30 launch to Dec. 31. But its legacy U-verse platform lost 262,000 customers in the fourth quarter, more than offsetting the 235,000 additional DirecTV satellite customers.
Dish Network said DirecTV Now’s fast growth didn’t impact its own v-MVPD platform, Sling TV. Dish, which hadn’t reported customer growth in 10 quarters, added 28,000 customers in the fourth quarter, a result undoubtedly stemming from Sling TV gains and not the return to growth of the core Dish satellite platform.
Comcast reported the addition of 80,000 video customers, but No. 2 cable company Charter Communications said it lost 51,000, with conversions of acquired Time Warner Cable subscribers proving challenging.
Overall, the U.S. pay-TV industry lost 1.7 million subscribers in 2016, a 1.7% shrinkage, said Moffett, who called it “the fastest rate of decline on record.”