Cord-Cutting Study Comes Down as Cable Nets Cry Foul

10:11 AM PST 01/22/2014 by Michael O'Connell
Courtesy of SHOWTIME
Showtime series "Shameless"

HBO, Showtime and Starz release stats on subscriber growth after a NPD Group study, no longer on the firm's website, claims households with premium cable are on the decline.

Within a day of research firm NPD Group releasing its State of SVOD report, which puts premium cable subscriptions down 6 percent in 2013, pay cable's biggest players -- HBO, Showtime, Starz -- have all come forward with data on recent growth.

"The research is simply incorrect," reads a HBO statement. "Both HBO and Cinemax services have shown significant domestic subscriber growth the past two years." A comment from Showtime echoes the sentiments: "The NPD research is not accurate.  Showtime has increased subscribers over the past two years, and in fact, has added 1 million viewers each year for six of the past 7 years."

The quick retaliation, which includes a challenging survey from research firm BTIG, has prompted NPD to recheck the data of its 7500-household survey. In the interim, it has pulled the study from its website. (NPD did not have an official comment when asked.)

As far as numbers, Starz is up 1.2 million subscriptions over the 12-month period ending in the third quarter of 2013 -- putting it at 22 million. Time Warner's latest reports for HBO had it up 1.9 million subscribers in 2012 -- with similar growth expected for 2013. And through last September, Showtime is at an all-time high of 22.8 million subscribers.

NPD's data on streaming growth, which it puts at a 4 percent improvement between 2012 and 2013, has not been challenged.

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