Q2 cord cutting falling short of analysts’ dire predictions

Comcast, AT&T, Charter Communications, Verizon and Altice USA have reported second-quarter losses of 527,000 linear pay-TV users. (Wikimedia Commons)

It’s bad, but not 1.3 million bad.

With the operators behind six of the top eight pay-TV platforms reporting second-quarter earnings this week, it appears cord cutting during the period will not match the dire forecasts of some media and telecom investment analysts. 

So far, with Comcast, AT&T, Charter Communications, Verizon and Altice USA reporting second-quarter earnings, the linear pay-TV sector has reported losses of 527,000 users. 

RELATED: Pay-TV Q2 subscriber losses will hit 1.28M, analyst says

Analysts had pegged the second-quarter attrition to exceed 1 million, with Wells Fargo’s Marci Ryvicker suggesting it could go as high as 1.28 million. 

Granted, there are other second-quarter reports to come—notably, Dish Network. The satellite operator, which may have lost as many as 370,000 users in the second quarter, according to Evercore analyst Vijay Jayant, reports earnings on August 3.

Midsized operators Mediacom and Cable One, as well as IPTV provider Frontier Communications, are also still due to report, while No. 3 cable company Cox Communications is privately held. 

Collectively, the 10 aforementioned companies account for 95% of linear pay-TV subscriptions in the U.S. These companies saw their linear video platforms lose around 758,000 users in the first quarter, according to Leichtman Research, which includes estimates for privately held Cox. 

The traditional pay-TV sector looks poised to surpass that number in the second quarter but will need Dish to meet or surpass its very dour loss prediction to reach attrition of 1 million. And this tally doesn't take into account gains made by virtual MVPD platforms. AT&T, for example, said it added 152,000 DirecTV Now users in the second quarter. 

So far, most linear pay-TV customer forecasts have been too high. 

Jayant, for example, has suggested Charter would report losses of around 145,000, with other analysts going as high as 158,000. But the operator saw better-than-expected second-quarter attrition in its acquired Bright House Networks footprint and reported total losses of only 90,000.

AT&T, down 195,000 U-verse TV users and 156,000 DirecTV satellite customers, matched forecasts, but Comcast (-34,000) and Altice (-37,000) also beat them. 

“We’re cautiously optimistic that our business is not seeing degradation on the video side,” said Altice USA CEO Dexter Goei, speaking during a conference call for reporters the day before Altice NV’s formal earnings presentation on Friday. “We are not seeing an acceleration of video subscriber losses. We are trending at two percentage points on video subscriber losses, just like last year.”