Virtual MVPDs like Hulu, DirecTV Now and Sling TV helped push pay TV into the black in the fourth quarter, with total subscriber gains of about 210,000 customers, according to Evercore ISI media analyst Vijay Jayant.
The growth was behind the 260,000 additions in the fourth quarter of 2016, but a big improvement over the 419,000 subscribers lost in the third quarter of 2017. The difference this quarter was a strong showing by vMVPDS – up by 773,000 customers in the period – and improved losses in the cable and telco sectors. According to Jayant, cable lost about 164,000 subscribers in the period, more than the 105,000 the sector lost in Q4 2016, but a huge improvement over the 367,000 shed in Q3.
Telco TV providers also improved significantly, shedding 128,000 in the fourth quarter, better than the 328,000 customers lost in Q4 2016. Satellite TV service providers continued to slide in the period, down 268,000 customers in Q4 2017, versus a loss of just 23,000 subscribers in the prior year.
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According to Jayant, all of traditional pay TV (cable, satellite and telco) lost about 560,000 customers in the quarter – up from 456,000 in the prior year – offset by the vMVPD increase.
Stronger housing formation helped temper some of the pay TV losses. Citing information from the U.S. Census Bureau, Jayant wrote that occupied housing units in the U.S. increased by about 1.1 million during the quarter.
Cable still dominated the broadband sector with 655,000 broadband additions in the quarter, down slightly from the 720,000 added in the prior year. Even at that lower number, cable still accounted for 115% of all broadband additions, Jayant estimated.