Analyst: Sub Losses Worsen Despite Virtual Distributors

Traditional pay TV homes down 3.1% in October forecast

Cable subscriber trends for October have worsened despite the growth of virtual distributors like Sling TV, PlayStation Vue and DirecTV Now, according to analyst Brian Wieser of Pivotal Research Group.

Wieser said pay TV subs were down 3.1% in the October cable universe numbers from Nielsen; the decline comes despite a 1% increase in the growth of TV homes.

Nielsen has also begun providing a Total Cable Plus number that includeds virtual distributors — but it does not have a year-ago comparable figure. In October, the virtual MVPDs added 1.5 million, which Wieser estimated reduced the drop in pay TV homes to about 2%.

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Wieser said that because vMVPD subscribers get fewer channels, those services provide less help to the programmers with the biggest network portfolios, including NBCUniversal, Viacom and Discovery, which added about half a million subs per network.

Based on traditional pay TV subscribers, the networks losing the most subscribers were Discovery’s Discovery Family Channel (down 11.2), Destination America (down 11.1%) and Science (down 9.2%).

Disney’s ESPN and ESPN2 were both down 3.7%.

Networks adding subscribers included AMC Networks's Sundance TV (up 15.5), IFC (up 4.6%) and BBC America (up 2.9%); Fox’s FXX (up 3.1%); and Discovery’s Familia (up 8.9% and Velocity (up 2.9%).