Pay-TV operators lost 625,000 subscribers in the second quarter, the biggest quarterly loss ever reported for the sector, according to SNL Kagan.
Earlier reports by media analysts estimated the carnage at well over 500,000. However, SNL Kagan's report represents the most comprehensive data set to date on pay-TV's watershed second quarter, delving into the performances of tier 2 operators and involving more than 70 operators overall.
The second quarter is typically the weakest for pay-TV subscriber growth. U.S. operators, including cable, telco and satellite carriers, ended the quarter with 101.4 million pay-TV subscribers still in their ranks.
"There's a host of different factors at play here," SNL Kagan Principal Analyst Ian Olgeirson told FierceCable. "Not only does the second quarter tend to be soft anyway, with seasonal shifts in viewing habits and people's usual gravitation away from pay-TV, but operators are pulling back on promotional activities and are being a little less aggressive overall in getting new customers. Verizon is shifting its strategy and not growing its footprint. You have AT&T waiting on its acquisition of DirecTV. You have Sling TV. There are a lot of related elements to push this number down."
So does that means the second quarter's landmark attrition had more to do with a collection of industry anomalies than customers cutting their cords and moving onto over-the-top services?
"There are a growing list of alternates for people to access for their content," Olgeirson said. "If you think about the moving 625,000 subscribers, those people are watching video someplace."
According to SNL Kagan, cable operators actually had their best second quarter subscriber performance since 2008, registering only 350,000 lost video customers. From 2009 through 2014, cable companies average second quarter losses came in at 609,000.
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