Analyst: Video Subscriber Trends ‘Far Worse Than Reported’

Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Charter may have all put on a brave face when it came to the issue of cord-cutting during their recent investor calls, but a deep dive into the subscriber data for the top seven multichannel video programming distributor (MVPDs) reveals they do have something to worry about, according to one analyst.

In the past two quarters, net video subscriber additions for the seven companies combined (Time Warner, Comcast, Charter, DirecTV, Dish, AT&T and Verizon) was down nearly 300,000 compared to the a year ago. And just in the first quarter net video adds for the companies decreased 200,000 year over year, “a notable acceleration from the absolute decline of 54,000 [year over year] in Q1 2015,” wrote BTIG analyst Richard Greenfield.

“Trends have actually been deteriorating for the past five quarters, with trailing 12-month subscriber additions down 588,000 compared with 92,000 in the prior 12-month trailing period,” he wrote. “We believe if the video subscriber trends of the past six-months continue throughout 2016, video subscribers could fall by over 600,000 in 2016 compared to the 48,000 subscribers lost by the top seven MPVDs in 2015 and the 393,000 video sub net adds in 2014.”

And that’s just the video subscriber losses in the fiscal reports. None of the companies share how many subscribers they have for skinny bundles (like Comcast’s Stream service and Verizon’s Custom TV), so “it is impossible to determine the actual decline rate in full-bundle paying video subscribers,” Greenfield wrote.

Greenfield estimates the MVPD industry is on pace to lose at least 2 million full-paying video subscribers each year to a combo of cord-cutting and cord-shaving, with consumers turning to OTT and SVOD instead.