Despite improvements in the cable sector, overall pay television subscriptions declined by 2.05 million in 2016 – nearly double the 1.16 million losses in the previous year, while over-the-top access providers continued to thrive, according to Convergence Research Group’s The Battle for the American Couch Potato report.
Revenue for U.S. cable, satellite and telco TV access providers rose 3% in 2016 to $107.3 billion and should increase another 2.1% to $109.6 billion in 2017, according to the report. OTT revenue, based on estimates from 47 providers) rose 32% in 2016 to $8.3 billion and should rise 34.9% to $11.2 billion in 2017 and 31.3% to $14.7 billion in 2018, the report said.
Cable operators more than halved their subscriber losses between 2015 and 2016 compared to 2009-2014, a trend that the report said should continue.
According to Convergence, the pace of defections from traditional pay TV subscriptions should continue – it is forecasting the sector loses about 2.11 million customers in 2017 – while OTT gains steam. Convergence estimates that 27.2 million U.S. households (about 22.3% of total TV homes) did not have a traditional TV subscription in 2016, up from 24.2 million (20% of TV households) in 2015. That number will grow to 30.3 million households (24.6% of TV homes) without a pay TV subscription in 2017.
Cable continues to crush it in on the broadband front. Over the past five years cable companies have added nine times the residential broadband subscribers telcos have, according to the report. Convergence counts cannibalization of telco DSL customers, the ongoing residential wireline telephone losses and the gaps in higher-speed broadband coverage among the reasons for cable’s continued dominance.
Overall, Convergence estimated that U.S. residential broadband customers grew to 94.5 million in 2016 and should rise to 97.2 million in 2017. Broadband revenue grew about 9% to $51.3 billion in 2016 and should grow to $54.7 billion in 2017, according to the report.
Telco residential wireline losses were about 8% in 2016 and Convergence anticipates the same for 2017. The researcher estimated that wireless substitution accounted for the bulk of the decline (87%) in 2016, with about 45% of households wireless-only. Convergence predicts 48% of households will be wireless-only by 2017, growing to 50% in 2018. Cable, the report said, represented 43% of U.S. residential wireline telephone subscribers in 2016, which should rise to 45% in 2017.
While cable gears up to enter the wireless business with Comcast’s Xfinity Mobile scheduled to expand beyond employee-only trials later this year and Charter eyeing a 2018 launch for its wireless product, the overall wireless business is in decline. Convergence said the four largest carriers added 17.7 million wireless customers in 2016, and should add about 15.5 million in 2017. Weighted U.S. wireless service ARPU dipped 7% and wireless service revenue fell 1% in 2016, according to Convergence, which estimates a 4% decline in weighted wireless service ARPU in 2017 and flat wireless service revenue in 2017.
Convergence has published The Battle for the American Couch Potato report for 11 years. Sources include Convergence analysis, company interviews, annual/quarterly reports and publications and U.S. Census data.