Verizon's 20K video sub additions lowest ever as 'telco TV hits brick wall'

Verizon (NYSE: VZ) said it added only 20,000 new pay-TV customers for its FiOS service in the fourth quarter. It was the worst video subscriber quarterly performance in FiOS history, comparing most unfavorably to the 116,000 customers added in the fourth quarter of 2014.

Following a third quarter during which FiOS added an anemic 42,000 video customers and rival AT&T U-verse (NYSE: T) lost 92,000 pay-TV customers, analysts are openly talking about the demise of pay-TV's once mighty telco sector. 

"The deceleration in FiOS is extraordinary," MoffettNathanson analyst Craig Moffett said. "Telco TV has seemingly hit a brick wall."

Indeed, Verizon finished 2015 up only 178,000 video subscribers compared to 422,000 in 2014. 

For his part, Moffett attributes the deceleration in both the telco and satellite TV sectors to the resurgence of cable -- all the major cable operators reported drastically improved video subscriber metrics in the third quarter.

"It would be easy to blame cord-cutting, but what is really going on is the improbable resurrection of cable," Moffett said. "Satellite is facing the same challenge. After a decade of being a net share donor, the big cable operators are taking back share."

Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC) has already reported its first full-year video subscriber growth in eight years, adding 30,000 customers in 2015. In trumpeting that announcement, TWC specifically cited gains against FiOS and U-verse in various markets. 

TWC Chairman and CEO Rob Marcus told investors that "connects are up and disconnects are down" in every market in which the MSO competes with U-verse and FiOS.

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