Cable Operators

Pay TV Gains Subs for 2nd Straight Quarter

5/09/2011 12:01 AM Eastern

The pay television industry gained video
subscribers for the second consecutive
quarter, with satellite,
telco and cable TV service providers
adding a total of about
439,000 video customers as of
March 31, according to Sanford
Bernstein cable and satellite
analyst Craig Moffett.

The first quarter is usually
the seasonally strongest period
for pay TV, but the category had
suffered after a deficit in two of
the past three quarterly periods.
And, Moffett noted, this was the
quarter in which Netflix surpassed Comcast as the country’s
largest subscription-based video provider.

Cord-cutting fears
aside, the growth was
still sluggish, falling short
of the 536,000 video customers
added in Q1 2010.
On a running 12-month
basis, subscriber growth
is just 0.3%, by Moffett’s
reckoning. A year ago,
the pay TV subscriber
base was growing by
about 1.6%.

Cable operators lost
customers, but the declines
were less than in the prior year. Cable operators lost
about 7% fewer video subscribers than they suffered in Q1
2010 and about half the 438,000 lost in 2010’s fourth quarter.

 A&T and Verizon added a collective 4% more video customers
than in the same period a year ago, Moffett said.

Satellite operators saw a downturn: Their 242,000 net
subscriber adds in the quarter were 28% less than the
337,000 added in Q1 2010.

That has been a trend for the satellite-TV business for
a while: It had 1.6 million net adds in 2007 and 669,000
additions in 2010.

The second straight quarter of overall gains in the category
— pay TV added 113,000 customers in the fourth
quarter — won’t quash cord-cutting fears, Moffett noted.

The overall gain is small compared to the 112 million TV
households in the U.S., and well short of population growth,
meaning that penetration rates are likely falling. Seasonality
patterns — as customers leave for summer residences — “suggest
that things will get worse as the year goes on.”

March