Thursday, August 18, 2016

Remember Claims That Cord Cutting Was On The Ropes? It's Actually Worse Than Ever

from the numbers-don't-lie dept                           

by Karl Bode
Despite the obvious realities that ratings are down and consumers are cutting the cord, there's a vibrant and loyal segment of executives and analysts who still somehow believe cord cutting is a myth. Every few months, you'll see a report about how cord cutting is either nonexistent or overstated. Earlier this year, these voices were quick to argue that the industry had cord cutting on the ropes because several of the biggest cable providers saw modest subscriber gains in the fourth quarter (ignoring several that saw net subscriber losses for the year).

Those folks have been pretty damn quiet the last few weeks as second quarter earnings show cord cutting is worse than ever.

A new report by Leichtman Research notes that the pay TV industry collectively lost about 665,000 net video subscribers last quarter, a number some other analysts say was closer to 757,000. Dish Network alone lost 281,000 subscribers, while the new, larger Charter (after acquiring Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks) lost 143,000 subscribers. "Phone" companies were hit particularly hard, telcos alone losing 500,000 subscribers in just one quarter. In fact, with AT&T and DirecTV now being one company, every single pay TV provider saw a net loss in TV subscribers during Q2:

It's kind of hard to spin this kind of bloodshed, so cord cutting denialists are likely to remain quiet -- at least for a few months.

Most analysts believe that these losses are due in large part to folks that are moving to a new home or apartment, and not bothering to sign back up for cable when they do. But if you factor in that these numbers aren't scaling alongside housing growth, things are even uglier than the numbers indicate. But because companies like Comcast occasionally see quarters with very modest subscriber gains (thanks in part to their monopoly over broadband and bundling), you'll still somehow see folks trying to argue that cord cutting is either non-existent or an over-hyped fad.

But occasionally somebody will step back and take an intelligent big picture look at the numbers, making the overall trend pretty damn apparent:
None of this is to say that cable providers couldn't quickly change the entire narrative by simply competing more seriously on TV service price (at the cost of higher broadband bills, of course). But instead, most cable sector executives still desperately cling to the narrative that cord cutting is a fad that stops once Millennials procreate. This is, they clearly believe, just a touch of cash cow indigestion that will magically resolve itself, so there's no reason to stop hitting consumers with biannual rate hikes for bloated bundles of unwatched channels.

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