Advanced Television

SNL Kagan: US pay-TV market in subs doldrums

September 4, 2013

According to the most recent report from media research specialist SNL Kagan, there is no spoiler alert needed for the second-quarter US multichannel subscriber movement. The seasonally soft period followed the script of a mature industry that is concurrently struggling to make gains while still holding a significant but not absolute share of the US market.

According to company reports and SNL Kagan estimates, cable, DBS and telco video providers collectively lost 366,000 video subscriptions in the second quarter. The figure was predictably softer than the first quarter but offered some encouragement with a nearly 11 per cent improvement to the loss posted in the year-ago quarter.

The industry remains slightly below its mid-2012 levels, placing the current US multichannel market in a subscriber doldrums. The combined cable, telco and DBS counts, according to SNL Kagan estimates, were more than 200,000 lower than in second quarter 2012. By expanding the view backward to second quarter 2011, SNL Kagan’s analysis noted only a small uptick in combined subscriptions of 121,000 for the past 24 months.

Additional highlights from SNL Kagan’s 2nd-quarter U.S. Multichannel Subscriber report:

  • Cable doubled its loss from the previous quarter, but the estimated decline of 607,000 was a slight improvement from the year-ago measure. The industry’s basic video tally has dropped by 1.8 million in the trailing 12 months, and cable’s share of the combined customers slipped to 55.3 per cent.
  • The telcos offered the clearest source of optimism. The phone companies continued to take video share from the cable and DBS incumbents despite uneven footprint expansion in the first half of 2013. The telco segment, with more than 400,000 net adds, gained significantly more subscribers than in the year-ago quarter and topped 10.7 million total video customers as of mid-2013.
  • The upbeat results did not extend to the DBS segment. The largely single-play offerings are meeting resistance above the 34 million subscriber level, illustrated by a drop of 162,000 in the quarter. While it was the single-largest quarterly decline, the DBS segment is still slightly ahead of its year mark with a small increase over the trailing 12 months.

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