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US Consumers Continue to Turn Off Pay TV Subscriptions

The 13 largest US pay TV providers saw worst quarterly net loss ever in Q2 2015

August 26, 2015 | Media & Entertainment

According to data from Leichtman Research Group Inc. (LRG), the 13 largest pay TV providers in the US, which account for approximately 95% of the market, saw a net loss of 470,855 subscribers in Q2 2015—the worst quarterly drop ever. In all, US pay TV subscribers to the providers studied totaled 94.9 million in Q2 2015.

US Pay TV Subscribers and Net Additions, by Provider, Q2 2015

Top cable provider subscribers totaled nearly 49 million, representing a net loss of 260,855—far better than the approximately 510,000 lost in the same period last year, and the smallest in any second quarter since Q2 2008. Comcast, which had the most subscribers, also saw the biggest drop.

The satellite pay TV audience recorded a net loss of 214,000 last quarter, vs. just 78,000 in Q2 2014, putting total subscribers at 34.2 million. No. 1 DirecTV was hit far harder than Dish Network, with a net decline of 133,000—its lowest quarterly loss.

Telco providers added 4,000 subscribers in Q2 2015—miniscule compared with a net addition of 284,000 in the same quarter last year, and the smallest since the services started in 2006. The rise was thanks to Verizon FiOS, which gained almost as many subscribers as leader AT&T U-verse lost. In all, telco subscribers totaled 11.7 million.

US Primetime TV Viewership on Select Cable TV Networks, July 2014 & July 2015 (millions and % change)

Nielsen research, cited in The Wall Street Journal, indicates that US TV viewers have shifted attention from cable TV over summer 2015—a time of year when it used to shine. Among the top 30 cable TV networks tracked by the firm, 21 saw large declines in primetime ratings in July 2015. Time Warner’s TNT, which maintained the largest primetime audience by a sliver, saw a drop of 22%, while USA—part of NBCUniversal, owned by Comcast—dipped 14% to 2.0 million viewers. No other cable TV network in the top six broke 2 million. A+E Networks experienced the largest drop, at 36%.

The Wall Street Journal article noted that instead of getting hooked on new cable shows premiering during the summer months, consumers are instead turning to digital video devices and video-on-demand to binge-watch shows they missed between fall and spring.

Even if they keep their subscriptions, pay TV subscribers aren’t loyal to their providers. April 2015 polling by Hub Research found that, on average, US pay TV subscribers used 2.4 sources to watch TV via the internet, vs. 2.1 in 2014 and 2.0 in 2013.

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