Cord-Cutting Has "Markedly Increased" in Past Year, Analyst Says

Cable Mergers Illustration - H 2013
Illustration by: Pawe? Jo?ca

Cable Mergers Illustration - H 2013

"The fourth quarter may well be viewed as the calm before the storm," says analyst Craig Moffett.

The number of homes ditching cable television — or never bothering to subscribe in the first place — have "markedly increased," a Wall Street analyst said in a research note Wednesday.

In the past 12 months, about 1.4 million homes in the U.S. became so-called "cord-cutters" or "cord-nevers," according to Craig Moffett of MoffettNathanson Research, and on a cumulative basis, about 3.8 million homes are now considered cord-cutters or cord-nevers.

Year-over-year growth in the fourth quarter for cable TV subscribers amounted to minus 2.2 percent, Moffett notes, while satellite TV managed to grow subscribers by 0.1 percent and telephone companies grew their TV sub counts by 9.9 percent. The total for the industry was a drop of 0.1 percent.

"A year from now, the fourth quarter may well be viewed as the calm before the storm," Moffett wrote. "A host of new OTT services will launch early this year, ranging from Dish's Sling TV to Sony's full-suite cable-replacement service. While none look like world-beaters on their own, they are likely to have at least some collective impact."

Moffett's report includes a disclaimer that his analysis is in part based on occupied housing data provided by the U.S. Census Bureau, which he calls "slightly suspicious."

"The real revolution is likely to come from new content makers entirely, delivering entertainment to millennials through entirely different distribution models," Moffett writes. "There's no timetable for that kind of generational shift, but maybe, just maybe, we're beginning to see it in the most recent quarters' data."