Pay TV Analyst: 'Pace of Cord-Cutting Quickens'

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Reviewing second-quarter subscriber trends, Craig Moffett says "the numbers aren’t huge, but they are statistically significant."

With publicly traded pay TV operators having reported their second-quarter results, Moffett Research founder and analyst Craig Moffett said midday Tuesday that evidence of cord-cutting has become more apparent in the latest set of figures.

"The Pace of Cord-Cutting Quickens," he said in the title of his report.

"Cord-cutting used to be an urban myth," Moffett said. "It isn’t anymore. No, the numbers aren’t huge, but they are statistically significant."

He highlighted that investors have hoped that a recovery in new household formation would one day provide a boost for pay TV subscribers. But he concluded: "New household formation has shown at least tentative signs of recovery. Pay TV subscribership has not."

For the second quarter, based on reported figures from publicly traded pay TV companies and his estimates for privately held cable firms, video subscriber figures declined by 380,000, "about the same as last year," Moffett said. "Household formation, however, was better than a year ago, meaning that the change in pay TV penetration was worse."

Seasonally, subscribers have tended to always fall in the second quarter as colleges shut down for the summer and snow birds head north. So Moffett also looked at pay TV subscriber trends for the past 12 months.

Video subscriptions declined by a cumulative 316,000, or about 0.3 percent, over the past year through the end of June, compared to a gain of 330,000, or 0.3 percent, for the year before that, he said.

Cable operators lost 591,000 total TV subscribers in the second quarter, less than the 606,000 drop recorded in the year-ago period. But satellite TV operators Dish and DirecTV saw bigger declines than in the year-ago quarter.

Twitter: @georgszalai