US cord-cutting reaches record levels in Q2 2105


Joseph O'Halloran

| 14 August 2015

SNL Kagan has become the latest research organisation to produce alarming news for the US pay-TV industry as it predicts over 600,000 video subscribers will cut the cord in the second quarter of 2015.

The analyst believes that the hitherto 'inconclusive' movement in US multichannel subscriptions took a more decisive direction in the three-month period, producing the largest loss to date amid growing fears of cord-cutting.

Specifically it calculates that the country's cable, satellite and telco firms' video subscriber levels are now perilously close to falling below the 100-million benchmark, with the Q2 slide following what has been called an 'uncharacteristically weak' first quarter, heralding what will likely be a much larger decline for full-year than the industry produced between 2010 and 2014.

The Kagan data shows that the Q2 'crater' was the product of a dramatic softening in the telco sector in particular, combined with an accelerated drop in satellite subscribers along with persistent cable decline, by far the greatest source of downward pressure on multichannel subscriptions.

Cable's basic-subscriber losses, at 350,000, came in at the lowest level since 2008, when the segment shed 211,000 basic video customers in the seasonally weak period. The analyst added that the telco sector increasingly appears to be trading subscriber gains for improved financials. It noted that AT&T's U-verse has aligned its strategy with DIRECTV's focus on profitability and that as a result of the belt tightening, the combined multichannel video subscribers served by Verizon's FiOS and U-verse IPTV services were flat at 11.7 million at the end of the second quarter, behind net adds of just 4,000. For its part, satellite lost an estimated 304,000 subscribers, as DIRECTV and DISH Network both reported record declines. The segment finished the quarter on just under 34 million subs.

Looking to the near future, Kagan said that further losses could be attributable to speculation swirling around the decline in DISH Network subscribers coinciding with the promotion of the provider's alternative Sling TV OTT offering. It did add that the estimated loss from DISH was compounded by a decline at DIRECTV to drive the satellite total lower.