With Charter Communications, AT&T and Dish Network all posting heavy losses, the pay-TV industry had its worst first quarter ever in terms of subscriber metrics.
MoffettNathanson analyst Craig Moffett said that total losses are around 762,000 video customers for the quarter, which is about five times worse than the 141,000 shed in the first quarter of 2016. Traditionally, the first quarter is a solid one in terms of linear pay-TV customer growth.
“For the better part of 15 years, pundits have predicted that cord-cutting was the future. Well, the future has arrived,” said MoffettNathanson analyst Craig Moffett in a note to investors this morning.
On Tuesday, Charter Communications reported net pay-TV losses of 100,000 for the first quarter—a result, the company said, that was driven by low-margin legacy Time Warner Cable pay-TV customers refusing to migrate to Charter’s Spectrum brand.
Days earlier, Dish Network reported a net loss of 143,000 subscribers—a loss that would appear much worse if not for the growth of virtual MVPD platform Sling TV.
AT&T, meanwhile, reported 266,000 lost video subscribers across platforms, with the futureless U-verse sustaining heavy losses, while the linear DirecTV satellite service remained flat in the first quarter. AT&T didn’t disclose how many customers its own v-MVPD service, DirecTV Now, had added during the first quarter.
“The current OTT offerings that are out there right now just seem to be cannibalizing the same satellite providers and base. And so it's just a shift in what's the base as opposed to actually growing the market,” said Charter Chairman and CEO Tom Rutledge, speaking to investment analysts on Tuesday.
“The litany of worsts is largely the same when one considers the data from the perspective of programmers,” Moffett added. “Worst-ever first quarter sub losses (495,000); worst ever rate of decline (-1.3%); worst ever acceleration in the rate of decline (50 basis points). … It is the nature of skinny bundles that each includes a different subset of cable networks. Most individual cable nets, therefore, did materially worse.”