Pay-TV subscriber growth saw weak Q1 but still added 10K, report says

Leichtman Research Group found that the 13 largest pay-TV operators grew video subscriptions by less than 10,000 customers in the first quarter, signaling a major slowdown from the 250,000 added in Q1 2014--but not the actual recession signaled by an earlier analyst report.

Don't get it twisted--it was the weakest first quarter for pay-TV subscriber growth since LRG started auditing the industry. But it's better than the loss of 31,000 video subs tallied by MoffettNathanson in a report issued to cable investors Monday. 

Leichtman's tally covers 95 percent of the U.S. market and 95.2 million subscribers.

The research company found that the top nine cable companies collectively lost around 50,000 video subs in Q1--close to flat with the year-ago time period.

Satellite operators DirecTV (NASDAQ: DTV) and Dish Network (NASDAQ: DISH) lost 74,000 U.S. subs between them, with Dish blaming the defection of 134,000 customers on a series of blackout-inducing carriage battles that bled into 2015. 

IPTV operators Verizon FiOS (NYSE: VZ) and AT&T (NYSE: T) added 140,000 subscribers in Q1, a slowdown from the 251,000 added in the first quarter of 2015.

For the full year, the pay-TV industry lost about 370,000 subscribers compared to just 65,000 in the comparable year-go time frame. 

"The traditionally strong first quarter for the pay-TV industry did not prove to be so this year. Despite virtually breaking even in the quarter, the first quarter of 2015 marked the first significant sign of an acceleration in pay-TV subscriber losses," said Bruce Leichtman, president and principal analyst for LRG. "In addition to changes in consumer demand for video services spurred by competition from alternatives, the decline of about 0.4% of subscribers over the past year was also driven by several providers becoming more discerning in customer acquisition and retention, focusing on higher-value/lower-churn customers at the expense of the volume of subscribers."

LRG pay TV subscribers in Q1 2015

For more:
- read this LRG press release

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