Major pay-TV operators down less than 150K video subs in Q3

With only one publicly traded company, Dish Network (NASDAQ: DISH), yet to report third-quarter earnings, the top pay-TV operators have reported video subscriber losses of just 144,300 so far.

Analysts had projected total, industrywide video customer losses of as much as 360,000 for the third quarter (to be clear, that figure includes both publicly traded companies and private companies that don't publicly release their customer numbers).

Industrywide, all operators, both public and private, lost around 179,000 video subscribers in the third quarter of 2014. And in the second quarter of this year, the U.S. pay-TV industry lost a record 630,000 video customers during the period.

FierceCable's 144,300 tally includes 10 publicly traded pay-TV operators: Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA), DirecTV (NYSE: T), Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC), Charter Communications (NASDAQ: CHTR), Verizon FiOS (NYSE: VZ), AT&T U-verse (NYSE: T), Cablevision (NYSE: CVC), Suddenlink, Cable One and Mediacom.

Among these major players, the trend lines mostly pointed in a positive direction. Nine out of 10 reporting operators posted significantly improved third-quarter subscriber performance (only AT&T's U-verse reported declines). And Comcast and Charter, for example, posted their best subscriber performances since just before the financial recession started in 2008.

However, the 144,300 count doesn't include privately held MSOs like Cox Communications and Bright House Networks. And it doesn't feature legions of smaller operators, such as companies represented under the NCTC. It also doesn't include Dish, which is scheduled to announce its third-quarter results Monday.

Despite the relatively positive numbers from the nation's largest, publicly held pay-TV operators, at least one analyst firm is sticking with its previous outlook. Vijay Jayant, an analyst for Evercore ISI -- which predicted attrition of 360,000 going into the third-quarter pay-TV reports -- estimates that Dish will report losses of around 85,000 Monday. Private cable companies lost 165,000, he said. "And if we include small telcos like Frontier, CenturyLink and Cincinnati Bell, the total comes to about 385,000 video losses in the quarter," he told FierceCable.

Michael Greeson, co-founder and director of research for The Diffusion Group, said the percentage of consumers polled who said they were "definitely" going to cancel their pay-TV service in the next six months dropped from 2.9 percent in early 2014 to 1.4 percent in early 2015.

"The fact that the decline occurred among those most likely to cut the cord was key, and ultimately translated into lower losses in Q3," Greeson said in a statement. 

Special Report:  From Comcast to AT&T to Dish: How pay-TV performed in Q3 2015

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