Q1 Pay TV Subs Rise Over Year-Ago in LA, Fall in NY and Chicago

SNL Kagan says subs in top 15 markets are pretty much unchanged as another study shows 87 percent of U.S. homes are getting multichannel TV services.

NEW YORK - The number of pay TV subscribers in New York and Chicago fell in the first quarter compared to the first quarter of 2010, while Los Angeles recorded growth, according to new SNL Kagan research.

In the top 15 U.S. markets, cable subscribers dropped 3.8 percent from 24.1 million in the first quarter of 2010 to 23.2 million a year later. Overall, these declines were nearly balanced out by gains for satellite TV and telco companies, with the top 15 markets finishing down a minimal 0.1 percent to 38.2 million total pay TV subs in the year-over-year comparison.

The report didn't detail subscriber changes from the fourth quarter of 2010 to the first quarter. Industry watchers have predicted slight pay TV sub gains in that comparison amid a recent decline in cord cutting fears.

Multichannel users in New York fell 0.8 percent year-over-year to come in below 7 million in the first quarter thanks to declines in cable and satellite TV, according to SNL Kagan. Other top 10 markets with multichannel sub declines year over year were Chicago (down 2.3 percent to more than 2.83  million), Dallas, Boston and Atlanta, while Los Angeles - where a 2 percent satellite TV gain and a 50.9 percent telco jump overcame a 4 percent cable drop for a total gain of 3.9 percent to 4.9 million - and Washington saw growth.

Meanwhile, new research from Leichtman Research Group unveiled on Thursday shows that 87 percent of U.S. households subscribe to some form of multichannel video service, similar to last year and up from 80 percent in 2004.

Confirming recent talk about lower-income households being more at risk, Leichtman said that non-subscribers to pay TV services tend to have lower household incomes. Nationwide, only 8 percent with annual incomes over $75,000 do not subscribe to a multi-channel video service, while 14 percent with incomes of $30,000-$75,000 do not subscribe and 20% with incomes under $30,000.

“The overall percentage of U.S. households subscribing to a multi-channel video service is as high as it has ever been, but it is leveling off,’” said Bruce Leichtman, president and principal analyst at Leichtman Research Group. “Higher income households remain most likely to subscribe to a multi-channel video service. This group also spends more money per month on video services, while being less likely to switch or disconnect services than others.”

The data is based on a telephone survey of 1,500 randomly selected U.S. homes. The mean reported monthly spending on multi-channel video service is $73.35, up 3 percent from last year, according to Leichtman.

Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com

Twitter: @georgszalai