After losing a record number of traditional pay TV subscribers in the third quarter, AT&T’s outlook for Q4 doesn’t look anymore promising.
As highlighted by a new MoffettNathanson report, the company’s satellite TV division, DirecTV, continues to experience churn pressure from customers coming off promotional pricing enacted in June 2016.
Back then, AT&T tacked on a second year of promotional pricing for new customers, provided they also subscribed to one of AT&T’s other services—wireline broadband, landline telephone or wireless. The discount amounted to around $40 per customer, MoffettNathanon said.
Even as DirecTV went back to offering only one year of introductory pricing, the number of customers on promotional deals stacked up to a peak of around 28.2% of the overall subscriber base in the first quarter of this year.
However, the number of promotional deals expiring began to spike in the third quarter, with that percentage falling to just 15.9%. Perhaps not by coincidence, DirecTV lost a record 359,000 customers in Q3.
With fewer and fewer DirecTV traditional pay TV customers getting discounts, investment analysts are still waiting to see improvements in average revenue per user (ARPU) and earnings before taxes, interest, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA)—an equation undoubtedly clouded by the fact that some users with expiring plans are migrating to AT&T’s low margin DirecTV Now virtual pay TV service.
In meetings with investors, AT&T has also hinted that it might work with customers with expiring deals to keep them in the fold.
But with the percentage of the base on promos expected to fall to 15.2% in Q4, investment analysts are bracing for the worst as far as subscriber attrition goes.
“To the extent that rates do rise significantly for that much of the subscriber base, one might reasonably expected elevated churn in response,” the MoffettNathanson report concluded. “There is no such thing as a free lunch.”