Nielsen Lowers Pay TV Universe for July by 2.5% - Multichannel

Nielsen Lowers Pay TV Universe for July by 2.5%

Virtual MVPDs add back some subscribers for many networks
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Nielsen has lowered its cable universe estimate for July by 2.5% versus July 2016, according to analyst Brian Wieser of Pivotal Research Group.

Wieser noted that networks are regaining some of those subscribers as consumers adopt virtual multichannel video programming distributor services like Sling TV or Sony’s PlayStation Vue. Those skinny bundles tend to benefit the biggest cable networks owned by broadcast parents, or those with a concentrated network portfolio.

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About 1.4 million virtual MVPD homes are included in what Nielsen calls Total Cable Plus, which was down 1.6% from last year.

Excluding vMVPDs, the median cable network’s penetration dropped 2.5% year over year.

Related: Virtual MVPDs Creating a New Narrative for Pay TV

Among the big network groups, network distribution was down 2% to 4% for Discovery Communications, Disney, NBCU, Scripps Networks, Time Warner and Viacom. Fox was down only 1.1%, while AMC posted a 1% gain.

Excluding the virtual distributors, the networks posting the biggest declines include Time Warner’s Boomerang, Discovery’s Destination America and Family Channel, and Viacom’s CMT and MTV Classic.

Related: Kagan Sees Pay TV Subs Dropping to 82M by 2021

Disney’s ESPN and ESPN2 were both down 3.5%. They are included in the virtual MVPDs, but Wieser said doesn’t have good year-ago numbers to make a comparison.

Among the networks posting growth were AMC’s Sundance and IFC, Fox’s FXX and Discovery’s Velocity.