Cord cutting is real, multichannel video industry losing subscribers

cordcutting Research analysts say that despite adding 195,000 new subscribers in the U.S. in the first quarter this year, major multichannel video providers still suffered a net loss over a four-quarter period, indicating that cord cutting has had an impact.

Leichtman Research Group surveyed 13 of the largest multichannel video providers across the country, who make up 94% of the market. Their findings showed a net loss of 80,000 subscribers over the past 12 months, a huge swing compared to the 380,000 they gained in the year prior. They also believe that the traditionally weaker second-quarter will drive that net loss even higher.

Part of the reason for the shift is that over-the-top (OTT) video providers were beginning to impact the market, though survey results didn’t quantify just how deep that impact actually was.

“First-time ever annual industry-wide losses reflect a combination of a saturated market, an increased focus from providers on acquiring higher-value subscribers, and some consumers opting for a lower cost mixture of over-the-air TV, Netflix and other OTT viewing options,” said Bruce Leichtman, president and principal analyst for Leichtman Research Group, Inc.

The top nine cable companies have over 51 million subscribers but lost 264,000 in the first quarter — 1.56 million in total from just a year ago. Satellite TV companies fared better by adding 57,000 subscribers in Q1, but it’s the lowest gain in any first quarter over the last 10 years.

It hasn’t been a good year for cable companies. Time Warner lost 553,000 customers in the past 12 months. Comcast lost 359,000. Charter shed 217,000.

OTT video and IPTV providers did the opposite. Netflix added two million subscribers in Q1 alone. Hulu Plus doubled its paid subscriber base to four million. Verizon FiOS added 542,000 and AT&T got 777,000 to sign up in the last 12 months.