Pay TV lost over 700,000 subscribers in Q2, analyst says

Charter Communications reported a loss of 152,000 video customers during the second quarter.

With Charter Communications reporting a loss of 152,000 video customers during the period, the pay-TV industry lost more more than 700,000 subscribers in the second quarter, the worst ever for customer attrition.

The numbers come courtesy of MoffettNathanson analyst Craig Moffett, who estimates cable, satellite and telco TV operators lost around 757,000 subs in the second quarter, or 708,000 if the gains by Dish Network IP-based platform Sling TV are factored in. 

While cable losses eased back to their slowest second-quarter pace in a decade at an estimated 242,000, Moffett said, telco operators lost a record 529,000 video customers during the period. 

On the satellite side, AT&T’s aggressive growth of DirecTV, which added 342,000 customers during the second quarter, was offset by an estimated 330,000 customers lost by Dish’s core service, Moffett added. 

The good news? The rate of attrition doesn’t appear to be accelerating all that much, with operators losing 1.3 percent of their collective video base in the second quarter vs. 1.2 percent in the first quarter. 

More concerning, the analyst says, are the subscriber losses being experienced by individual channels. 

“The gap between cord-cutting, or eliminating one’s pay-TV subscription altogether, and cord-shaving, where skinny bundles replace fat ones, is getting wider,” Moffett said. 

Last week, Nielsen released numbers showing that ESPN lost more than 2.2 million subscribers from February to August. This metric is compounded by the fact that Dish has joined Verizon in launching a skinny bundle that relegates ESPN to an add-on sports tier. 

And it could be worse, Moffett points out.

“The pay-TV industry is struggling with a measurement problem,” he said. “The most commonly cited numbers are Nielsen’s estimates of cable network subscribers.”

Those numbers, he added, are merely estimates. “Company-reported numbers are, by contrast, lagged 30 to 90 days (based on the payables from their distributors), making changes in trend a bit harder to discern. And Nielsen’s numbers don’t include new OTT distributors like Sling and Sony Vue, which at this point, may represent 800,000 subscribers …”

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